Stainless steel markets throughout the world have responded differently to the United States’ announcement, at the beginning of March 2018, of 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent tariffs on aluminium.
Uncertainty persisted as temporary exemptions were granted to supplies from selected countries, until the end of May. A quota arrangement was agreed with South Korea. On May 31, the United States confirmed that tariffs will be imposed on imports from its NAFTA associates, Canada and Mexico, as well as the European Union effective from June 1.
In response, the European Commission has launched a safeguard investigation, in an effort to thwart the redirection of steel supplies, previously destined for the US market, into the European Union. This, like the US Section 232 action, is likely to lead to the imposition of import quotas or tariffs.
While some suppliers in Europe and Asia attempted to maximise shipments to the US, in advance of the application of trade measures, the attitude of most buyers and sellers has been cautious. Exports to the United States have declined. Meanwhile, we have many reports of producers elsewhere making competitive price offers in markets that they have not previously explored.
This has resulted in divergent price trends in the different regions. In the light of reduced import tonnages and the impending introduction of tariffs on future shipments, US domestic suppliers have met little resistance to substantial price hikes, in their home market.
Producers in Europe and Asia, conversely, have struggled, in recent months, to raise selling values, by even enough to cover the rising cost of raw materials.
Between February and May, MEPS’ North American average price, for grade 304 cold rolled coil, increased by 15.5 percent. During the same period, the corresponding Asian average rose by just 1.6 percent, in US dollar equivalent terms, while the EU figure dropped by 2.4 percent.
Source: MEPS – Stainless Steel Review