8 November 2023 – The European Commission’s recent anti-circumvention proceedings against cold-rolled stainless steel from Taiwan, Turkey, and Vietnam in relation to existing anti-dumping and countervailing measures against Indonesia show once again how large multinationals are favored by the Commission. While small and medium-sized enterprises are systematically denied or arbitrarily denied access to important EU institutions.
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What stainless steel cold rolling has in common with furniture from Sweden
The European Commission’s recent anti-circumvention proceedings against cold-rolled stainless steel from Taiwan, Turkey, and Vietnam in relation to existing anti-dumping and countervailing measures against Indonesia show once again how large multinationals are favored by the Commission. While small and medium-sized enterprises are systematically denied or arbitrarily denied access to important EU institutions.
In any case, there can no longer be any talk of a level playing field here if a few large corporations can hold the entire metalworking industry in Europe hostage.
Entrepreneurial freedom of choice restricted
An industry that consists of over 4,900 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany alone. And which for decades has been undemocratically restricted and economically suppressed by the European steel producer lobby in its entrepreneurial freedom of choice.
The CO2 border adjustment tax CBAM, the scrap export ban or the recent increase in the use of anti-circumvention investigations against stainless steel products show with whom the European Commission prefers to enter dialogue.
Associations? Apart from letters to the EC, little concrete
For the sake of fairness, however, we must also assume a failure on the part of the SME associations. Which, in many cases, have simply not been directly involved in the EU’s market protection proceedings in the past and, apart from sending a letter to the Commission, have not made any significant contribution to the argumentation against the accusations made by the steel lobby.
The concerns of SMEs in this regard that they will be blacklisted by the EU stainless steel oligarchs and no longer supplied if they are too politically involved or too loud a voice cannot be dismissed. Unfortunately, this is the real level playing field in the EU.
Steel lobby exploits EC’s ignorance
The Commission’s procedures are full of errors in content and calculations, legally incorrect justifications and, in some cases, even deliberate violations of their own regulations. Often, the responsible Commission staff do not even know how steel or stainless steel is produced and rely solely on the allegations made by EUROFER.
How the mechanisms work within the EU institutions is well known within the lobby associations. It is not uncommon for the officials there to have previously worked for years in the EU Parliament or other areas of EU administration and legislation.
The current case against cold-rolled stainless steel shows once again how the ignorance of EU bureaucrats is being used against the downstream industry and is shamelessly exploited and instrumentalized by steel producers.
Added value based on bicycle assembly?
In this case, a method for calculating added value in the rolling process from hot to cold strip is to be used, which is otherwise used for the final assembly of bicycles, copiers, or shoes. As a German company, we know that assembly has been clearly and unambiguously defined in the contract for work and services in the German Civil Code (BGB), by the legislator and up to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH).
Cold rolling is nothing more than assembling shelves…
In this way, EUROFER and the EU Commission have put the stainless steel cold rolling process on the same level as the assembly of a shelf from a well-known Swedish furniture store chain. And it has further damaged credibility and trust in the European Union.
Anyone who has ever seen a rolling mill from the inside knows that you won’t get far there with the infamous hexagon key and the assembly instructions for the Billy shelf. Especially not when it comes to bringing a hot-rolled 3.00 mm stainless steel coil to 0.50 mm by cold rolling.
Have the allegations been pre-screened?
It could hardly be more obvious that this anti-circumvention investigation uses unfair methods to try to oust undesirable market participants and how professionally the Commission has checked the credibility of the steel lobby’s allegations in advance.
Assembly just one point among many
However, the justification that it is only a matter of assembly is in fact only one point in the circumvention procedure currently being negotiated. In our view, the legal basis for the procedure did not exist even before it was initiated and published.
Who supervises the guards?
Much of these proceedings seems so contrived and far-fetched that the national antitrust watchdogs, such as the German Federal Cartel Office and the European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF, should take urgent action here.
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