Berlin yesterday angrily protested after the US said it would slap punitive “anti-dumping” duties on steel plate products from companies in Germany and seven other nations.
Germany said the EU should consider filing a complaint with the WTO in what threatened to turn into a major trade row under US President Donald Trump, who has promised protectionist measures to put “America First.”
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said the step breached global trade rules and unfairly disadvantaged suppliers in Germany, as well as in Taiwan, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan and South Korea.
He said that deliberately violating WTO rules “is a dangerous step” and that “Europeans cannot accept this.”
He said he had noted “with utter incomprehension” the decision by the US Department of Commerce on imports of carbon and alloy steel plate products that impacts German companies Salzgitter AG and Dillinger Huette.
“Despite our efforts and repeated interventions by the European Union, the US Commerce Department has applied calculation methods that contravene WTO rules with the aim of harming US competitors in the steel industry,” he said.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, formerly on the board of steel and mining giant ArcelorMittal SA, on Thursday said that the foreign producers were selling their products at unfairly low prices in the US market and that US customs could therefore impose duties on the imports.
The materials are used in a range of sectors from construction, infrastructure and mining to ships, railway cars and machines.
The US move is “significant because it is the first anti-dumping procedure in the steel sector under the new administration,” Gabriel said.
“The US government is apparently prepared to provide American companies with unfair competitive advantages against European and other companies, even if this is contrary to international commercial law,” he said.
“The EU must now examine whether it will file a complaint with the WTO. I strongly support this,” he said.
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