Turkish exporters said the recent U.S. decision to raise import tariffs on Turkish steel would have little to no impact as they already have alternative plans to sustain the momentum in steel export.
Earlier on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump raised tariffs on steel imports from Turkey from 25% to 50%, citing Ankara’s ongoing military operation in northern Syria.
“The U.S. market has already been a bit of troublesome for us for the last three years. We substituted the sales we lost there with new and other existing markets,” said Veysel Yayan, secretary-general of the Turkish Steel Producers Association.
Yayan said steel exports to the U.S. have declined over the years. “Had customs duties not been reduced to 25% in May, we would not have been able to export at all this year. We offset the decline in our exports to the U.S. last year with a rise in sales to the EU.”
Turkey’s steel exports to the U.S. stood at $1.1 billion in 2016, $1.8 billion in 2017, $910 million in 2018 and $190 million in the first eight months of 2019. Turkey’s total steel exports in the period of January to September totaled nearly $7 billion, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).
Underling the fact that Trump’s decision was driven by U.S. domestic politics, Yayan said Turkey should use domestic steel products in the domestic market.
According to Yayan, Turkish steel exports amounted to $6.7 billion in the first eight months of 2019, while imports in the same period stood at $5.1 billion. "This shows that Turkey can easily meet the demand in the domestic market," he said.
On Aug. 10 last year, the U.S. hiked the tariff Turkish steel imports to 50%. Trump, however, backtracked on his decision after the U.S. own industry received a blow. At the time, Turkey's exports to the U.S. fell, while total steel exports rose by 3.7%.
Meanwhile, Trump's decision to suspend negotiations on the $100 billion trade deal yesterday has not affected the business world either.
Protective measures by EU
Remarking that the global quota imposed by the EU corresponds to 40% of the Turkish steel sector's exports in 2018. “The quotas imposed by the EU on us have expired in very short periods. Following this, the EU shifted the supply, arising even from themselves, over the Turkish steelmakers’ sector, saying ‘they exported a lot of goods in a very short time," Yayan said.
EU governments approved limits on steel quotas last month designed to protect European manufacturers from the threat of surging imports following the effective closure of the U.S. market.
Quotas for 26 grades of steel, including stainless, were set at the average level of imports in 2015-2017 plus 5%, with further 5% hikes due in July and in July 2020. Imports of steel beyond these quotas are subject to a 25% duty.
Yayan said the protective measures adopted by both the U.S. and EU have set an example for other countries. “In order to mitigate the effects of these measures, industry representatives are looking for alternative markets. We should also take countermeasures and protect our own steel sector, as the U.S. and the EU have done. To this end, we should reduce imports of products that we have the capacity for and increase our efforts to produce products that are not produced domestically,” he added.
Lobbying activities necessary
Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ, chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK), said they faced an unexpected move in the $100 billion trade target between the two countries, adding that the sanctions would not be long term.
“President Trump highlighted freezing in his message. Once the operations are over, the trade target and other issues will be back on the table,” he said, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will meet Trump on Nov. 13.
Yalçındağ said that the two leaders have mutual trust and friendship. “I think they will understand each other well. There is a serious smear campaign against Turkey in the U.S. media. We need to focus on lobbying activities and explain ourselves well to the U.S. public,” he added.