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UK trade secretary set to extend controversial steel protections – POLITICO

LONDON — Britain’s trade chief is set to take several controversial steps designed to protect Britain’s domestic steelmakers from a flood of cheaper Chinese imports, despite concerns from government watchdogs.

Commerce Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan decided to extend five measures protecting the industry until June 2024 after her predecessor used emergency legislation last year to keep guards in place. The original protections were transferred from the EU after Britain left the bloc.

“Continuing the measure for these grades of steel is in the UK’s economic interest,” the Department for International Trade said in a statement accompanying the findings of Trevelyan’s investigation.

If all five measures “were removed, there would be serious injury or threat of serious injury to UK producers”, the statement added.

But several countries, including China, South Korea, Switzerland and Brazil, have questioned the legality of the UK’s extension of measures under World Trade Organization rules after they were passed. by the EU. They argued that Britain should carry out its own investigation into the impact of guards on its domestic industry.

Johnson’s chief ethics officer, Christopher Geidt, also questioned the legality of the decision to extend warranties before stepping down dramatically last week. Geidt specified in a next letter that he “could not participate in advising on possible breaches of the law”.

Trevelyan’s predecessor, Liz Truss, initially extended the measures for a year on June 30, 2021. This allowed the steel industry to appeal the initial advice of the government’s independent trade advisers, the Trade Remedies Authority ( TRA), that they should be deleted.

A new TRA survey, released on Thursday, supports Trevelyan’s decision, but its verdict comes only after the Commerce Secretary intervened to steer his analysis toward specific metrics.

TRA also suggests increasing imports quotas on certain products, a move Trevelyan will now pursue after warnings from steel buyers about their trade impact.

“Government interventions will help to hedge against anticipated increases in imports from diverted trade from US and European markets which will remain protected for years to come,” said Gareth Stace, chief executive of industry lobby UK Steel.

Stace credited the “determination and purpose shown by the Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] and the Secretaries of State “to the Departments of Business and Commerce” to ensure that the correct outcome was ultimately delivered.

Emilio Casalicchio contributed reporting. The title of this article has been changed to clarify that the government must extend the measures.