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Switzerland lodges protest against EU steel tariffs

Steel bars stacked up in a warehouse
Swiss steel manufacturers fear being frozen out of the EU market if they exceed restrictive quotas. Keystone

Swiss negotiators say they have had “constructive” talks with the European Union over protective steel tariffs that Brussels has imposed in the midst of a trade row with the United States.

The EU slapped import duties on steel shipments in July after the US had applied a similar tariff on steel and aluminum imports. Steel imports from Switzerland are also potentially affected by the 25% tariff placed on shipments that exceed a certain quota.

Switzerland has protested that the move violates the 1972 free trade agreement it has with the EU. It raised these concerns during an extraordinary meeting of the FTA joint committee in Brussels on Tuesday.

“Switzerland is demanding that the EU Commission either exempt Switzerland from the protective measures or implement them without restricting bilateral trade,” Switzerland stated. “Both sides confirmed that the protective measures should have as little impact as possible on trade flows between Switzerland and the EU.”

While no concrete decisions appear to have taken, both sides will meet again during a regular meeting of the joint committee scheduled for November 13.

Some 98% of Swiss steel imports come from the EU and 95% of Swiss steel exports go in the opposite direction.

“The EU protective measures therefore make EU market access for Swiss steel companies considerably more difficult,” read the Swiss statement. “Swiss suppliers are worried that they will be forced out of the European domestic market if the quotas are exhausted.”

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