May 20, 2022
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan

The US has agreed to reverse tariffs on British steel and aluminum imposed by former President Trump, with the UK in exchange agreeing to remove retaliatory levies imposed on some $500m worth of goods from the US.

Trump set tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports from the UK in 2018, ostensibly to protect US business interests. The former president even went as far as to say the issue was a matter of national security. The UK responded by imposing tariffs of its own on a range of US imports, including whiskey and motorcycles.

Today’s agreement rolls back those moves. The UK will receive a duty-free quota of more than 500,000 metric tons of steel “melted and poured” in the country annually, with volumes above the agreed level subject to the 25% tariff. Aluminum imports will also have a duty-free quotas set by grade.

The deal follows on from similar agreements reached by the US in recent months with the European Union and Japan, as President Biden attempts to undo a number of policies set by his predecessor.

US officials said the agreement will help to reduce costs for companies that buy imported steel, while discouraging steep increases in imports by maintaining tariffs on shipments beyond the agreed-upon level.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the deal will benefit “America’s steel and aluminum industries and workers by protecting manufacturing, as well as consumers by easing inflationary pressures in the US”.

British International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan welcomed the agreement on Twitter, whilst also taking a jab at the original Trump administration decision as being “unfair”.

The deal has of course been signed with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the backdrop, as western democracies seek closer ties in the face of a newly-divided world. Another key focal point for US foreign policy is China, and Beijing’s influence over the British steel industry has been an area of concern for policymakers, with a number of UK firms in the sector under Chinese ownership.

As part of the terms, the UK has agreed to audit all Chinese-owned steel companies and check for influence from the People’s Republic of China government, sharing their findings with US officials.

The Steel Manufacturers Association welcomed the move, saying it would help resolve the issue of global excess capacity and illegal steel dumping.