Turkey's steel sector could face losses after cuts to EU quotas: industry chief

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - New restrictions on imports to the European Union next month may further damage the Turkish steel sector, even as it seeks new markets to compensate for losses from U.S. and EU tariffs, Turkey’s Steel Exporters’ Association (CIB) chief said.

FILE PHOTO: A worker checks molten cast iron in front of the furnace at Turkish steel manufacturer ISDEMIR in Iskenderun in Hatay province May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

Turkey’s steel sector has come under pressure from an economic slowdown which has taken its toll on the construction, automotive and white goods sectors, driving down steel consumption by 31% in the year to July and production by more than 10%.

Steel exports, already down 0.8% to $9.4 billion in the year to end August, will fall to $13 billion in 2019 from $15.6 billion last year, CIB Chairman Adnan Aslan told Reuters in an interview.

In February, EU quotas for 26 grades of steel 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.

But the European Commission later cut this year’s quota increase to 3% from 5%, effective Oct. 1. It also limited any one country to a 30% share of imports of hot-rolled flat steel per quarter.

Aslan said the move will lead to a contraction in Turkey’s flat steel and rebar exports.

“We can see the limitations are aimed at curbing imports from Turkey,” Aslan said. “It is not understandable why the EU... wants to limit country-based imports.”

“We filled the quota for long products in a month. We switched to a new one-year quota in July. We will most likely complete that in September,” Aslan said.

“Because the quotas are full, Turkey will not be able to export long products to the EU until July 2020.”

Turkey’s steel exports to the EU fell 0.5% to 5.1 million tonnes in the first eight months of the year, with value down 9.1% to $3.6 billion, CIB data showed. More than a third of Turkey’s 21.4 million tonnes of steel exports in 2018 were to the EU.

President Donald Trump imposed additional tariffs on Turkish steel imports during a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington last year. In May, the White House halved tariffs to 25%.

Aslan said the additional tariffs had nearly stopped steel exports to the U.S. He said exports to the U.S. totaled 208,000 tonnes in the first eight months of the year, down from 1.2 million in 2018.

Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Jan Harvey