The European Commission will launch an investigation by the end of this month into alleged dumping of stainless steel into the European Union by Chinese and Taiwanese producers, a leading executive said.
The case could be the first of a number the European steel industry brings in the coming months to counter record exports from the world's largest steel producer, China. Manufacturers there are boosting output to new highs, despite a domestic slowdown.
"These trade cases against cold-rolled stainless from China and Taiwan have been brought up to the Commission and to my knowledge the Commission has agreed to file them," said Wolfgang Eder, chief executive of Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine (VOES.VI), and former president of steel industry body Eurofer.
"We are expecting more anti-dumping (action) in the second half. I can confirm imports into Europe are going sharply up," he said in an interview with Reuters in London.
The steel industry, represented by EU industry body Eurofer, filed a complaint in mid-May. The Commission had 45 days to determine whether or not to proceed with an investigation, an EU source said.
Eurofer itself declined to comment. A Commission spokesman also declined to comment.
The Commission can impose provisional duties within nine months of launching an investigation if it determines that the imports are dumped, meaning sold at artificially low prices. After a further six months, EU member states can then agree to impose definitive duties, typically lasting five years.
The EU also investigates allegations of unfair subsidies, with those cases lasting 13 months.
EU imports of cold-rolled stainless steel sheet from China and Taiwan totalled 758 million euros (605.377 billion pounds) last year, according to Eurostat, a 10-fold increase from the value in 2002.
EU production in 2012, the last year for which data is available, was worth 23.6 billion euros.
"We have been expecting the anti-dumping filing since last year. The impact on Taiwan would be massive. The European zone is the biggest export market of Taiwan’s cold-rolled stainless, accounting for about 25 percent of total exports," said one Taiwanese steelmaker.
The EU already has in place duties on seven types of steel products from stainless fasteners to welded tubes coming from China but no cases simply involving specific grades of steel.
The China Iron and Steel Association was not available to comment on the stainless case, but warned earlier this year that rising Chinese steel exports were likely to increase the risks of anti-dumping action around the world.
This year alone, the United States has opened a probe into imports of carbon and alloy steel wire rod from China, confirmed plans for duties on concrete steel rail tie wire from China and Mexico, and has said the country unfairly subsidised high-tech steel.
According to China's General Administration of Customs, Chinese exports of steel, including stainless, hit 8.07 mln tonnes in May, the highest ever level and an annual increase of 41.5 percent in the year to date.
Meanwhile, China produced just over half of the world's stainless steel last year, despite weak demand and pricing trends, according to research by Steel Market Intelligence GmbH.
Although potential EU anti-dumping duties are many months away, the bloc's move to open an investigation could help the region's struggling stainless producers boost prices ST-CRUSTL-IDX, which have already recovered to around one-year highs.
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