EU starts monitoring aluminum imports after U.S. tariffs

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has started monitoring imports of aluminum to determine whether U.S. tariffs have led to a surge in shipments of the metal into Europe, the EU official journal said on Thursday.

Containers are seen at the port in San Pedro, California, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Riha, Jr.

Data collected on the quantity and value of incoming aluminum products will help the bloc decide whether to take measures to limit imports.

The European Commission began an investigation last month to assess the need for potential “safeguard” measures for steel.. Steel imports have been under surveillance since April 2016.

The United States imposed import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, although the European Union and six other countries secured temporary exemptions.

The Commission, which oversees trade policy in the 28-nation EU, believes that the 10 percent tariff introduced by the United States has increased the risk that more aluminum will be diverted to Europe at depressed prices.

The EU official journal said that aluminum product imports increased by 28 percent between 2013 and 2017, while prices of such imports fell by 5 percent.

Significant oversupply has built up since the early 2000s, with most of the new capacity in China, the journal said.

It added that although China exports very little primary aluminum, this has depressed prices of the globally traded commodity.

In the European Union, only 16 smelters are still in operation, compared with 26 in 2008, and a number are at risk of closure, it added.

The surveillance will apply to imports of aluminum exceeding 2.5 tonnes.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Hugh Lawson