The US government’s plan to impose heavy punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports is met with incomprehension by German business representatives. “This shows that the friendly pose Trumps at the World Economic Meeting in Davos was nothing but a marketing gimmick,” says Michael Hüther, director of the employer-oriented Institute of German Business in Cologne, the “World on Sunday” (18 February 2018). Now it must be examined whether the future US import policy for steel and aluminum is compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“If not, the federal government must react and show a clear edge,” says Hüther. On Friday evening, the US Department of Commerce announced that it considers protective measures in favor of domestic steel and aluminum manufacturers a national security issue. President Donald Trump must now decide by mid-April if he will follow the proposals.
According to industry representatives, the consequences could be considerable for the European steel market. The exports of German steel manufacturers such as ThyssenKrupp, Salzgitter or Dillinger Hütte towards the USA are low. But the planned punitive tariffs would divert steel supplies from the Far East, so the fear: “The EU steel market is the most open in the world,” says Hans Jürgen Kerkhoff, President of the Steel Industry Association. “The industry would be overwhelmed when other countries foreclose their markets.”