Stainless steel anti-circumvention: Possible procedural errors put EC in need of explanation
Stainless steel anti-circumvention: Possible procedural errors put EC in need of explanation

Is the EC now facing a huge discrimination case?

17 January 2024 – The fact that the European Commission’s anti-circumvention proceedings against stainless steel imports from Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam originating in Indonesia are on shaky ground and have been brought under questionable accusations is certainly nothing new to most people.

More than 500 cases of disadvantage and discrimination

In addition, there are now serious allegations against the responsible market protection department of the EC. There are allegations of disadvantage, discrimination and a possible cover-up of administrative errors in the two anti-circumvention proceedings. There is talk of well over 500 cases.

Has the case already reached the highest EU level?

The conflict that began in early October and the accusations against the AC department have been on the desks not only of those responsible at DG-Trade, but also of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice President Vladis Dombrovskis since mid-December. No reaction so far. The European Commission’s usual silence in such cases? They don’t make mistakes in Brussels…

Antic-circumvention proceedings: What had happened

The anti-circumvention investigations officially began in mid-August 2023. The interest in the bloodcurdling proceedings was and is enormous, as it could mean that important sources of stainless steel are unjustifiably excluded from the EU market.

Interested parties denied access to the anti-circumvention investigations

But while some parties involved, companies, especially those represented by lawyers, were favoured and immediately treated and considered by the EC, other parties were denied participation in the proceedings and thus access to important information for a long time. So long, in fact, that important deadlines had already passed.

German stainless steel trader affected

One of the companies affected: The German Gerber Steel GmbH. The internationally renowned stainless steel trader and importer was one of the first companies to register with the EC as an interested party shortly after the publication of the two proceedings in August 2023 and request access to the documents.

Negligence or intent at the EC?

It is not yet possible to say with certainty whether this was due to human error or intent. But it was not only the German stainless steel traders who were denied fundamental rights by the EC. More than 540 cases of disadvantage and discrimination have been documented and submitted to the EC.

A scandal in itself, it shows once again how ignorant and arrogant the EC is towards medium-sized companies. Large corporations, state representatives and parties represented by lawyers are immediately served by the EC. SMEs, on the other hand, can look where they are.

If the discovery of these cases of discrimination alone were not enough to cause both proceedings to be closed immediately due to serious administrative shortcomings, the trigger is still missing here and this could be an even bigger scandal.

For it is possible that this administrative failure, the disadvantages and discrimination in both anti-circumvention investigations of the EC would have remained undetected.

Almost 400 pages of analysis handed over to EC

After finally gaining access to the relevant allegations and documents regarding the anti-circumvention cases at the beginning of October, Gerber Steel’s market protection team submitted an almost 400-page submission on the two stainless steel anti-circumvention investigations in just 30 days. And presented extensive evidence that both investigations were constructed and completely unfounded. The conclusion: Overall, if the two proceedings had been properly scrutinised in advance, they should not even have been started.

First accepted, then flimsily rejected

However, the European Commission had not only received, but also confirmed that Gerber Steel’s submission in both anti-circumvention investigations would be added to the proceedings, the rejection! It was only after several days and with more than enough time to read and evaluate the documents and recognise the scope of the evidence submitted that the rejection came.

The reason given by the EC: not submitted on time. The escalating conflict between Brussels and Thorsten Gerber’s team runs through all EC instances and, as mentioned at the beginning, is already on the Commission President’s desk. The German authorities are also investigating the case in detail.

In the end, the EU taxpayer pays for the damage

Overall, this scandal is yet another clear indication of how the EC deals with small and medium-sized enterprises and unwelcome parties. Even the most obvious mistakes cannot be admitted by the EC. It prefers to keep the EU courts busy and continue to destroy European taxpayers’ money with favouritism and questionable and dangerous market protection investigations.

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