Anti-dumping measures have been in place since 2016 when China flooded the UK market with cheap imports. However, the TRA reckons that we now need Chinese imports to meet the fall in supply caused by sanctions against Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine. In 2020-21, 27% of total rebar imports came from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
It said that keeping the measures in place “would not be in the economic interests of the UK as there is currently a high demand for affordable imported HFP rebar from the UK construction sector in particular”.
But the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR), which represent domestic suppliers, says that there is more than enough steel production capacity in the UK and Europe. Relaxing the restrictions would not only harm the UK steel industry, but also give rise to concerns over quality – and hence safety.
BAR chairman Steve Elliott said: “The TRA proposals are an over-reaction and do not fully take into account the manufacturing resources of UK and European steel mills. In terms of the significant additional CO2 emissions from importing Chinese steel and concerns over quality, the proposals are utter madness.”
He explained Chinese steel is often manufactured using basic oxygen furnaces, which produce up to five times the amount of CO2 compared to the electric arc furnace methods used by UK and European steel mills. There are also quality concerns, he asserted. In 2015, it was found that some Chinese steel mills were adding boron to steel reinforcement in order to obtain commercial rebates. Even small amounts of boron can affect the hardenability characteristics of steel and this has potential safety issues for prefabricated welded steel reinforcement, he said.
TRA chief executive Oliver Griffiths said: “We have a duty to weigh up the impact of dumping on UK producers against the broader effects on the UK economy of imposing tariffs. In this case, our assessment is that high domestic demand and international supply shortages mean that retaining tariffs on HFP Rebar from China would push up prices for key elements of the UK economy, such as construction. Our judgement is that the impact on the British economy of higher prices would significantly outweigh the impact on the sole UK producer of rebar of removing tariffs on Chinese imports.”
There now begins a 30-day period of consultation before a final decision is taken.