A worker cuts steel plates inside the China Steel Corporation factory, in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.   Picture: REUTERS
A worker cuts steel plates inside the China Steel Corporation factory, in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. Picture: REUTERS

SA’s steel and aluminium exports to the US are such a small proportion of its total imports they do not pose a threat to US national security or to the US steel and aluminium industries, the government has argued in its submission to the US government in support of its application for an exemption from the duties that US President Donald Trump has imposed on steel and aluminium imports.

On March 9, Trump announced his decision to impose a 10% ad valorem tariff on imports of aluminium articles and a 25% ad valorem tariff on imports of steel articles from countries, excluding Canada and Mexico, with implementation to take effect from March 23. The decision followed reports from the US secretary of commerce that imports of these products threatened to impair US national security.

The proclamation for the duties made provision for country-based exclusions from the duties should the US and that country arrive at a satisfactory alternative means to address the threat to the national security.

The South African government through Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, has made a formal submission to the US requesting the exclusion of SA from the imposition of duties on steel and aluminium. SA’s ambassador to the US Mninwa Mahlangu has also engaged with the White House national security council staff, state department and the office of the US trade representative in this regard.

Davies has also had a teleconference with Ambassador CJ Mahoney, the deputy US trade representative for investment, services, labour, environment, Africa, China and the Western hemisphere. He will hold a media briefing on Monday to discuss the issue of the tariffs and the launch of the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCTFA).

In its submission to the US, SA emphasised that its annual exports of aluminium products were about 1.6% of total US aluminium imports. These products consist of specialised aluminium sheet, coil and plate for processing in the US automotive, battery and aerospace industries.

In a statement on Friday, the Department of Trade and Industry noted that the US census bureau data indicated that in 2017 the US imported a total of 33.4-million tonnes of steel, of which imports from SA were approximately 330,000 tonnes, less than 1% of total US imports and 0.3% of total US steel demand of 107-million tonnes.

SA argued in its submission that it does not a pose a threat to US national security or to the US steel and aluminium industries, but is a source of strategic primary and secondary products used in further value-added manufacturing in the US, contributing to jobs in both countries.

"Furthermore, SA assured the US that to a very large extent, the inputs for all steel and aluminium product exports to the US are sourced from local producers and that SA has a robust customs control system which prevents circumvention," Department of Trade and Industry spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said.

"SA acknowledges the adverse effects of global steel over-capacity. The domestic steel sector has been severely impacted by low priced steel and steel product imports and, as a result, SA has implemented a number of trade remedy measures. In addition, SA supports and participates in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and G-20 multilateral process to achieve outcomes of a fair, sustainable and viable steel industry in the future."

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