Your report on ArcelorMittal’s objections to the call for import duty refunds illustrated precisely why the current import duties should be scrapped immediately (“ArcelorMittal says removing steel import tariffs will hurt sector”, March 30).

ArcelorMittal, as a primary producer, obviously sees itself as embodying the “steel sector”. As the scrapping of import duties might result in a midyear oversupply on the local market, falling steel prices would render their out-of-date operations unprofitable. Thus the current tariffs must be maintained.

If one considers steel fabricators to also be an integral part of the “steel sector”, scrapping the current 18% tariff, which has made them uncompetitive with imported components, is simply a no-brainer. An oversupply of steel and lower prices would allow the fabricators to compete with imports, save their businesses and employ more skilled staff.

If ArcelorMittal wants to operate in this alternative definition of the “steel sector”, its inefficiencies cannot be condoned by swingeing tariffs on imported raw steel. Rather, it must fight for its corner, like all the fabricators, against imported product. If this means curtailing operations at Newcastle and Vanderbijlpark while reopening the mothballed Saldanha Bay steel plant, so be it.   

James Cunningham
Camps Bay

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