Blow for South Yorkshire steelmakers as US links tariff talks with peace in Northern Ireland

The US has said it will consider ending crippling tariffs on steel imports ‘when the time is right’ – in a crushing blow to hopes of a swift end to the crisis.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 6:51 pm

Trade representative Katherine Tai appeared to link the issue with the future of Northern Ireland. Last week, the British government claimed the two were ‘entirely separate’ issues.

Speaking to an online event by the Institute of International and European Affairs, she said she and President Joe Biden ‘care deeply’ about supporting the Good Friday Agreement that maintains open borders, Reuters reports.

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"We just need to have a process that makes sense, but the UK is very much on our minds and I am confident that we will take this up when the time is right.” (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

She added that the administration was encouraging the UK and EU ‘to find a solution that is durable and that maintains peace in Northern Ireland’.

She said: "We just need to have a process that makes sense, but the UK is very much on our minds and I am confident that we will take this up when the time is right.”

Her comments will be a set back for South Yorkshire steelmakers facing a triple whammy of challenges including a 25 per cent price disadvantage compared to EU rivals - the bloc negotiated an end to the same US tariff from January 1 - and soaring energy and raw material costs.

WHY IS THE US RESPONSE EMBARRASSING FOR DIT?

Anne-Marie Trevelyan Secretary of State for International Trade will meet with her Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal in New Delhi on Thursday, Jan. 13. India and Britain are launching talks on pursuing a free trade deal. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)

And they will be an embarrassment for International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan who is aware of the urgency of a deal.

Steelmakers say once business is lost to the EU it will be very hard to get back.

Earlier this week, the Department for International Trade did not say when she would be having talks with the US.

But it insisted UK threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol were an ‘entirely separate issue’.

WHERE ARE THE US AND UK ON TALKS TO END THE TARIFF?

Ms Trevelyan has been eager to engage quickly with the Biden administration to lift tariffs. She invited US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to London early in the new year for talks.

But this week she is on a two-day visit to India to launch negotiations on a trade deal.

Katherine Tai also said that talks with Britain on steel and aluminium will be grounded in the Biden administration's efforts to deal with global excess capacity for the metals, largely centered in China.

She said that another key priority was to reduce the carbon intensity of global steelmaking, a provision aimed at China's heavy reliance on coal-fired steel production.

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