Government defends action on steel as tariffs and energy costs hit Sheffield producers
The Government has highlighted its financial support for the steel sector amid soaring energy and raw material prices.
It has also vowed to continue to apply ‘rebalancing’ measures against the US in a row over tariffs.
UK steel producers must continue to pay a 25 per cent tariff on exports to the United States, putting them at a major disadvantage compared to rivals in the EU. The bloc negotiated an end to the Trump-era charge from January 1.
The Star asked when international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was holding talks with her US counterpart amid warnings that once a new supplier was found in the EU, Sheffield firms would struggle to win the business back. But the Department for International Trade did not respond.
Meanwhile, energy and raw material price rises threaten to wipe out profits from a bounce back in demand after pandemic lockdowns, experts say.
A DIT spokesman said: “We remain committed to securing a competitive future for our energy intensive industries, providing more than £2bn support in recent years, and continue to support our vital steel sector through over £600 million in relief since 2013 and the £315 million Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.
“Until a resolution is agreed to the US steel dispute, we will continue to apply rebalancing measures to defend our economic interests and the rules-based international trading system.”
Some believe US intransigence is linked to the UK threatening to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit deal.
But the spokesman said: “Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol is an EU-UK process and should not be conflated with Section 232, which is an entirely separate issue regarding US tariffs on UK steel and aluminium.”
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Sheffield MP Clive Betts said the Government was not acting fast enough to protect the industry.
He added: “Clearly the EU now has the advantage. Why hasn’t the government sorted this already? They talk about taking back control but we’re in danger of being left behind.”
Labour is calling for a windfall tax on record North Sea Oil and Gas profits to create a £600m fund to support struggling firms, including energy intensive industries.
The party said it will force a vote in parliament on Tuesday, calling for government to scrap business rates and create the fund.