US squeezes steel concessions from G-20 amid tariff threat
10 Jul 2017 - 0:50
London: Group of 20 leaders agreed to address growing overcapacity and rock-bottom prices in global steel markets, bowing to pressure from the Trump administration after it threatened to impose punitive tariffs on its allies.
In talks that stretched into the early hours of Saturday, US officials managed to get language inserted into the communique that sets deadlines for G-20 members to address excess steel production, according to a leaked copy of the text. Countries like China will also have to be more transparent about how they subsidize domestic producers. In return, the US agreed to boilerplate language reiterating the G-20’s commitment to fight protectionism.
The threat of a trade war on steel hung over this week’s G-20 summit in Hamburg and those fears were compounded Friday when German Chancellor Angela Merkel said negotiations were proving to be difficult.The US is a net importer of steel used for construction, infrastructure and other demands. But President Donald Trump promised during his election campaign to help revive the steel industry and said the US can’t take chances by relying on imports of the metal for reasons of national and economic security.
In a key passage, the G-20 communique urges world leaders to “urgently” seek the removal of “market-distorting subsidies and other types of support by governments and related entities,” according to a copy provided to Bloomberg. That was significantly stronger than the language adopted by the G-20 at last year’s summit in Hangzhou, China.
The joint statement further calls on G-20 members to “fulfill their commitments on enhancing information sharing and cooperation by August 2017, and to rapidly develop concrete policy solutions that reduce steel excess capacity.”
The data and proposed policy solutions will then be compiled into a report and published by the OECD’s Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity in November, according to the leaked communique text.
G-20 members will take stock of their progress during Argentina’s 2018 G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, the text said.
The text represents a blow to President Xi Jinping, who has resisted Washington’s efforts to squarely blame his government for the excess capacity and depressed prices for steel products. Despite China’s commitment to reduce the country’s annual steel capacity by as much as 150 million tons before 2020, US and European regulators argue that Beijing has not done enough to curb its government subsidies for steel and other products.