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German steel producers seek tougher EU safeguard measure proposal

London — German steel mills want changes to the European Commission's proposed safeguard measures for steel imports, saying they had been "watered down," German steel federation WV Stahl said Tuesday.

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While WV Stahl President Hans Juergen Kerkhoff welcomed definitive measures, he said the proposals were "unsuited" for protecting the regional steel industry from an influx of redirected trade flows resulting from US import restrictions.

"The EC's proposal neds to be urgently improved," Kerkhoff said.

The EC notified the World Trade Organization before Christmas and proposed country-specific quotas for exporters, along with quarterly global quotas for each product for all other countries. The exception is hot-rolled coil, which received a quarterly global quota.

Mills are horrified about plans to increase quota levels by 5% in the coming years.

A German mill source described the proposal as "catastrophic."

"For strip producers, it's nonsense. It is something," but would not be "effective," the source said, adding that the increase in quota levels each year would not prevent steel price decreases like those seen in the final quarter of 2018.

The source said that even if the EU were to find imports to be hurting the bloc's steel players, any investigation would take a long time, during which the damage would be unchecked.

TURKEY 'GOT AWAY' WITH UPPING EXPORTS TO EC IN Q4

Sources said an increase in Turkish offers had contributed to the Q4 downturn in prices.

For flat steel products, Turkey has not received a country-specific quota, which surprised some sources, and will be covered by the quarterly global quotas.

"The quotas are high as they are based on import-strong years. I am a bit surprised that Turkey is not targeted, but they mostly stepped imports up during the 200 days [of provisional safeguards] and before they were not that much of a player, so they got away with it," said a German stockholder.

The EC introduced provisional quotas for steel imports in July.

EU member countries will vote on the proposal on January 16.

New measures are due to be effective by February 4.

--Laura Varriale, laura.varriale@spglobal.com

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, newsdesk@spglobal.com