Steel Products

Steel Buyers Respond to Negotiations on 232 with Europe

Written by John Packard

“We are focused on availability more than price.”

This morning Steel Market Update participated in a very subdued galvanized steel conference call with members of the Heating, Air-conditioning, Refrigeration, Distributors International trade group. HARDI members are wholesalers who supply the mechanical contractors doing work on residential and commercial construction jobs.

The key takeaway I got from the meeting: supply is more important than flat rolled steel prices.

John Packard Summit 18During our canvass of the market away from the HARDI call we heard similar musings regarding the lack of steel and price being a secondary factor. This was evident when one of the top executives with a Midwest service center told us, “We are focused on availability more than price.”

We are making a subtle change to the way we will be presenting prices to our members. In the past we have taken the high and the low of the range, added them together, and then divided by two to get our average. We are now taking the average of all the data inputs and providing that instead. You will know if there are more numbers on the high end of the range (or vice versa) by doing the old math and seeing if there is a variance (we will continue to provide a high end and low end of the range).

This week we asked our data providers if their businesses would be affected if the negotiations between Europe and the United States resulted in the Section 232 tariffs disappearing for the EU. Here are a few of the comments received:

“No, and we aren’t super worried (at least not right now). Europe is busy as-is and I’ve never considered the EU to be a bad actor on the import side (much the way I viewed the exemptions for Brazil, South Korea, “NAFTA”). As long as most of Asia remains under the Section 232 guidance, we should be juusssttt finnnneee.” Service center

“The recently released joint statement from the European Commission EVP Valdis Dombrovski, USTR Katherine Tai and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo appears to signal the end of Section 232 against the EU countries, most likely the end of this year. If Section 232 tariffs are removed, it would make more steel available in the spot market at competitive prices.” Manufacturing company 

“No, Europe is so screwed up, it would be six months before anything shakes loose.” Manufacturing company

“Technically, we all would be impacted if S232 is removed against the EU, and imports to the U.S. rise in response. However, because the EU itself is enduring a steel shortage and record prices, I believe any actual impact will be delayed until they move into an oversupply situation. That doesn’t appear likely until later this year at the earliest.” Service center

My own opinion is the negotiations will last until sometime into fourth-quarter 2021. It would be late first or second quarter before any European steel would head this way. The first place it would go is to high-end automotive applications. I would not expect a swamping of the market with cheap steel from Europe for some time to come (and remember, if there are antidumping or countervailing duties in place against a country, they do not go away with the Section 232 tariffs, unless they were negotiated as part of a bigger package).

Our next SMU Community Chat Webinar will be held next Wednesday, May 26. We will host Steel Manufacturers Association President Phil Bell as our speaker. The webinar is available to both members and non-members and is free. With the domestic steel mills all making record profits, steel prices at all-time highs, foreign steel constrained, an industry focusing on their competitive advantage in a world about to limit carbon, and much more, the timing for Mr. Bell to speak on one of our Community Chat Webinars is perfect. Click here to register.

When it comes to steel training workshops and conferences, the next few months are going to be busy. Our first “live” event will be the SMU Steel Summit Conference on Aug. 23-25. Everything else is virtual until the fourth quarter of 2021. We are beginning to review taking a couple of our workshops back to “live” during the months of October and November (depending on the status of the pandemic and people getting their vaccinations). Here is a listing of upcoming events:

2021 Events as of 5.18.2021

As always, your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.

John Packard, President & CEO,

Latest in Steel Products