A Sheffield MP has condemned American tariffs on steel imports - but one steelmaker said it could be an opportunity.
Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss, shadow minister for steel, said the “arbitrary and wholly unnecessary” 25 per cent tariff was causing great anxiety for steel communities worried about jobs and the impact on the economy.
The Community union and trade body UK Steel issued a joint statement saying it would have a ‘profound and detrimental impact on the sector, which exported 350,000 tonnes of products to the US in 2017, more than seven per cent of the total.
It added: “The UK sector is in the midst of a fragile recovery following years of considerable turmoil, it would be utterly devastating if this were to be undermined.”
In Sheffield, Forgemasters and Outokumpu said it was too early to comment on the impact.
But Mick Pinder, managing director of Chesterfield Special Cylinders, said it could hand them an advantage.
The Sheffield firm, which makes high pressure cylinders, said they had been trying to crack certain US markets for some time but had been held back by two US competitors who used Chinese steel.
If they were forced to now use US steel due to the tariffs, CSC would be competitive on price.
Meanwhile US steel mills were inefficient, “stuck in the 70s” and many were mothballed and it would take time to bring them back on stream to cope with a surge in domestic demand.
He added: “That’s quite interesting for us. We’ve already got the contacts but it’s simply down to price, we won’t use Chinese steel.
“There are no tariffs on cylinders so our imports are unlikely to be affected, which makes the market more accessible to us.”
Dr Graham Honeyman, chief executive at Sheffield Forgemasters International, said: “We will be working closely with BEIS and Government to establish exactly what effect there may be from the US announcement of steel import tariffs and crucially, whether there will be exclusions for Sheffield Forgemasters but at this stage it is still too early to comment on the impact.”
An Outokumpu spokesman said the tariffs would mean up to 25m tonnes of steel that is exported to the US, would need to find a new destination - which in practice would mean Europe.
He added: “The European Commission needs to take decisive action to mitigate any market disruption in Europe. The EU cannot allow the US government to damage the European steel industry.”