US eases tariffs on UK steel and aluminum

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Dive Brief:

  • The United States reached a deal with the United Kingdom to partially lift tariffs on steel and aluminum exports from the U.K. beginning June 1, the two countries announced Tuesday.
  • The U.K. will be able to export a certain amount of steel and aluminum into the U.S. duty-free before tariffs take effect. In return, the U.K. will lift approximately $500 million worth of tariffs on U.S. products such as whiskey and blue jeans. 
  • The deal eases duties imposed in 2018 by former President Donald Trump. Trump imposed 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% tariffs on aluminum imports as part of a strategy to prioritize domestic production and address an overcapacity of steel in China.

Dive Insight:

The agreement with the U.K. comes after the U.S. struck similar deals to ease steel and aluminum tariffs with Japan and the European Union.

The U.K. will be able to export 500,000 metric tons of finished steel and 900,000 metric tons of aluminum before tariffs take effect. That’s far less than the quotas set for the European Union and Japan. 

By the numbers

500,000 and 900,000 metric tons

The amount of steel and aluminum, respectively, the U.K. can import annually into the U.S. before tariffs take effect

3.3 million and 18,366 metric tons

The amount of steel and aluminum, respectively, the E.U. can import annually into the U.S. before tariffs take effect

1.25 million metric tons

The amount of steel Japan can import annually into the U.S. before tariffs take effect. The U.S.’ trade deal with Japan excludes aluminum.

The deal also requires U.K.-based steel producers owned by companies in China to undergo a financial audit to evaluate whether there are any market distorting practices that “would materially contribute to non-market excess capacity of steel,” according to a statement.

Aluminum shipments are subject to novel “smelt and cast” provisions, and producers must prove that products contain no aluminum from China, Russia or Belarus. 

“Today’s historic deal is a testament to that ambitious goal and will benefit America’s steel and aluminum industries and workers by protecting manufacturing, as well as consumers by easing inflationary pressures in the U.S.,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “By allowing for a flow of duty-free steel and aluminum from the UK, we further ease the gap between supply and demand for these products in the United States.”

The deal also lifts tariffs the U.K. placed on U.S. imports of products such as jeans, whiskey and motorcycles. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States estimated that whiskey exports to the U.K. have declined 42% since tariffs were enacted.

The U.K. is the fourth largest market for whiskey exports, according to the trade group, and the value of exports dropped to $88 million in 2021 from $150 million in 2018.

“Distillers throughout the United States are cheering the end of this long tariff nightmare,” Distilled Spirits Council CEO and President Chris Swonger said in a statement. “We toast the Biden administration for its resolve in bringing a stop to these punitive tariffs on American Whiskeys and securing the return to duty-free trade in spirits across the Atlantic.”

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Sarah Zimmerman
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