* Berlin says U.S. duties violate international trade laws
* Minister urges European Commission to file WTO complaint
(Adds more Gabriel quotes, reaction from European Commission,
comment from German Economy Minister, background)
By Michael Nienaber
BERLIN, March 31 Germany urged the European
Union on Friday to consider filing a complaint with the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) against the United States over its plan
to impose duties on imports of steel plate from five EU member
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive
orders on Friday aimed at identifying abuses causing huge U.S.
trade deficits. He is also preparing to meet Chinese President
Xi next week in Florida, with contentious trade issues likely to
be high on the agenda.
Global steel prices have slumped as Chinese producers, who
account for about half of the worldwide steel supply, have
flooded the export markets, leading to protests and anti-dumping
complaints by the United States, the European Union and others.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a final
finding that European and Asian producers dumped certain carbon
and alloy steel cut-to-length plate in the U.S. market, allowing
it to impose duties ranging from 3.62 percent to 148 percent.
Among the affected companies are firms in Germany, Austria,
Belgium, France and Italy.
Gabriel said the U.S. government seemed prepared to give
U.S. firms an "unfair competitive advantage" over European
producers even though this violated international trade law.
"We Europeans cannot accept this. The EU must now examine
whether it also files a complaint at the WTO. I strongly support
this," Gabriel said. The European Commission, the EU's executive
arm, is in charge of trade matters in the 28-member bloc.
"The WTO rules are the backbone of the international trade
order. To deliberately violate them is a dangerous step," he
said. "It is the first time that the U.S. in such a case resorts
to distorting practices that do not comply with the WTO rules."
In Brussels, a spokesman for the European Commission said it
regretted the U.S. move to impose anti-dumping measures, adding
that the duties were "artificially inflated".
"Our comments and notably those concerning the use by the
U.S. of methodologies which artificially inflate the preliminary
dumping margins have not been given expected consideration," the
The final duties were in many cases higher than the
preliminary duties set in November. "We will look now into the
detail of the decision taken by the U.S. and consider the
appropriate steps," he said.
Gabriel said Germany had to stand up to the U.S. and fight
"accounting tricks" that put Germany's internationally
competitive steel industry at a disadvantage.
"If the U.S. got through with unfair competition, other
industries would also be subject to the same threat," Gabriel
Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Germany would, along
with the European Commission, continue to campaign for
Washington to stick to WTO rules.
"The signals the U.S. is sending in the steel sector really
worry us," Zypries said, adding that she would raise the issue
when she visits the United States in May.
Cut-to-length steel is used in a wide range of applications,
including buildings and bridgework; agricultural, construction
and mining equipment; machine parts and tooling; ships, rail
cars, tankers and barges; and large-diameter pipes.
The U.S. Department of Commerce's finding is the result of a
petition from Nucor Corp and U.S. subsidiaries of
ArcelorMittal SA and SSAB AB.
For Austrian producers and exporters, dumping duties on the
Voestalpine group and all others were set at 53.72
percent. Among French manufacturers and exporters, duty rates
were set at 148.02 percent for Industeel France and 8.62 percent
for Dillinger France and all others.
In Germany, duties were set at 5.38 percent for AG der
Dillinger Hüttenwerke, 22.90 percent for the Salzgitter group
and 21.03 percent for all other exporters and
The chief executive of Italian steel firm Marcegaglia said
the U.S. risked setting off a trade war if it implemented its
plans for a border tax, an issue that should be taken to the
"And when you start a war you don't know where you will end
up," Emma Marcegaglia told reporters in Rome.
Marcegaglia said it was still possible that the issue could
be resolved through trans-Atlantic negotiations.
Italy's industry minister warned that a U.S.-EU trade
dispute would hurt growth and global governance at a time when
the West needs to show a unified front against unfair trade
"Any trade clash between the United States and Europe would
be dangerous not only for our economies, but also for the rules
that govern globalisation," Carlo Calenda told
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin; Additional reporting
by Gernot Heller in Berlin, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and
Antonella Cinelli in Rome; Editing by Hugh Lawson)