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Steel industry not planning to request new safeguard duties

THE steel industry does not expect to apply for new safeguard duties following the expiry of the last round of duties in 2019, after concluding that manufacturers have since recovered.

Industry representatives at a public hearing with the Tariff Commission on Thursday said that steelmaker Lunar Steel Corp. moved from loss to profit. The industry had doubled to 21 licensed local players from the previous 10 after the decade-long protection.

“There will be no need for an extension of the safeguard or a reapplication considering that imports are down and continues to be down during this period of pandemic,” Jose Salvador Rivera, Jr., the legal counsel of the petitioner, said after citing discussions with industry leaders.

The official stance of the petitioners, he said, is not to reapply for another round of measures with members showing financial growth.

Ramon Tan, president of a segment of the industry, the Steel Angles, Shapes and Sections Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. said, however, that unregistered angle bars are still entering the country.

“With the safeguard duty in place, we are assured of protection coming from the government that… our costs can compete with the imported product. We cannot say (when) the market… will dump another tide of cheap imported angle bars,” he said.

“As of now, (safeguards are) not yet badly needed, but soon it will be a tool to equip the local manufacturer with an additional shield or weapon against an influx of imported angle bars.”

Safeguard duties on steel angle bars were extended to 2019, after first being implemented in 2009 to 2015. The Safeguard Measures Act, or Republic Act No. 8800, allows domestic producers to ask the government to conduct an investigation into their foreign competitors if they claim to have been injured by excessive imports.

The steel angle bar industry successfully petitioned for an extension after it demonstrated that imports seriously injured the industry.

Mr. Rivera said that the problems of the industry have now shifted to smuggling and unfair trade practices, which he said would require remedies other than safeguards.

“As of the present, provided that the trend continues and there is a relatively level playing field, (the) petitioner is confident… that adjustment measures would allow them to compete against imports.”

The tariff commission’s 2017 assessment found that the domestic steel angle bar industry complied substantially with commitments to adjust to competition.

The initial application for safeguards came from Cathay Metal Corp., Dragon Asia Rolling Mills, Inc., and Lunar Steel Corp. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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