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UK raises tariffs for Russia's key metals, but minor impact expected

Metales | No férreos | Acero

Market Data - Metales

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UK raises tariffs for Russia's key metals, but minor impact expected

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Only 0.5% of copper, steel, 1% of aluminum leave Russia for the UK

Lead exports to the UK most significant; pig iron non-existent

LBMA already dented Russia's silver exports

  • Autor/a
  • Ekaterina Bouckley
  • Editor/a
  • Anthony Poole
  • Materia prima
  • Metales

The UK introduced additional 35% tariffs on imports of a few Russian metals March 15, which should remove from its market or replace with other origins 720 mt of Russian copper, 3,900 mt of aluminum, 7,600 mt of lead, just over 700,000 mt of iron ore and 110,000 mt of steel.

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As the UK's exposure to the Russian metals that it effectively expels from its market are minimal, varying between 0.5% for aluminum and even less for copper, 1.7% for steel, and 10% for iron ore, the move will not create a breach in the UK market supply.

It is intended to harm the Russian economy but, in reality, the 35% higher tariffs are more or less neutral for Russia as well, given the traditionally small shares the British market has in its metals export basket.

In 2021, the UK imported 7,500 mt refined copper, copper alloys, and matte sourced in the Eurasian Union, of which Russia is a member country, but over 90% of this came from Kazakhstan, according to data published by the Eurasian Economic Commission, the regulatory authority overseeing the customs union between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.

The UK also imported 54 mt of copper scrap from the Union, but the entire volume was supplied by Armenia, while Russia exported 1,000 mt elsewhere.

Directly from Russia, the UK bought 87 mt of copper wire, rod, and sections, but this was less than 0.5% of the UK's annual imports of copper wire. In 2020, these stood at 59,800 mt, with the major supplier being the EU.

In 2021, Russia exported 450,000 mt of refined copper and copper alloys, 5,100 of copper powder and flakes, and 212,000 mt of copper products, including rod, wire, wire products, and cord, plate, strip and foil, pipe, and pipe fittings. The share of shipments to the UK (720 mt) made up 0.15% of the overall total, data showed.

The tariffs on Russian pig iron and aluminum will have nominal effects, too.

In 2021, Russia exported 3.84 million mt of pig iron, but none of this went to the UK.

Over the same time, it exported 3.3 million mt of unprocessed aluminum, with only 55 mt distributed in the UK. Its exports of aluminum powder and flakes came to 15,290 mt, with none sold in the UK.

Of the 373,500 mt rolled aluminum products, including rod, sections, wire, plate, foil, pipes, pipe fittings, and cord, that Russia sold externally only 1% (3,850 mt) ended up in the UK. Neither is this volume significant in the UK's imports of aluminum products, averaging 770,000 mt/year.

Only slightly higher is the UK's uptake of Russia's unprocessed lead: the western country bought 7,600 mt of it in 2021 accounting for 5.5% of Russia's 140,000 mt exports of lead ingots that year. UK's purchases of Russian lead plate, foil, powder, and flakes, at 1 mt, represented 13% of Russia's 7,600 mt exports of these products.

In 2021, Russia exported 27 million mt of iron ore concentrates with 715,290 mt, or 2.6%, of this sold to the UK. The volume represents 10% of the UK's annual imports of iron ore and concentrates.

None of Russia's 3.74 million mt direct reduced iron shipments outside of the Eurasian Union went to the UK.

Of the 27.8 million-28 million mt of steel that Russia sold outside of the Eurasian Economic Union in 2021, the share of sales in the UK, estimated at 110,000 mt, did not exceed 0.5%. The level corresponds to 1.7% of the UK's total steel imports; the latter varies between 6.7 million and 7 million mt/year.

The UK imported none of Russia's 15.3 million mt of exports of semi-finished steel products, including carbon, alloyed, and corrosion-resistant grades.

In 2021, Russia exported 3.5 million mt of steel bars, rod, sections, and wire. The UK bought 1.5%, or 47,900-48,000 mt, of this. It also absorbed 60,700 mt, of less than 1%, of Russia's 7.88 million mt flat-rolled steel exports.

Of the 1 million mt of steel and cast-iron pipes and 172,000 mt rails that left Russia in 2021, the amounts destined for the UK were tiny as well, only 267 mt and 29 mt, respectively.

Russia's silver exports to the UK had already been halted since March 7, when the London bullion market said it had suspended six Russian major gold and silver refiners — Krastsvetmet, Novosibirsk Refinery, Uralelectromed, Moscow Special Alloys Processing Plant, Prioksky Plant of Non-Ferrous Metals and Shyolkovsky Factory of Secondary Precious Metals — from its Good Delivery list until further notice.

All in all, the additional tariffs on imports of copper, aluminum, lead, silver, iron, steel, and iron ore, will help the UK remove from its market over 800,000 mt/year of Russian ferrous and non-ferrous metals.