China, Japan, Korea and Australia once again highlighted their general concerns over the rising number of safeguard measures taken and called on members to strictly abide by the provisions of the Safeguards Agreement. In this context, some members raised concerns regarding safeguard actions in the steel sector while others referred to the economic situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
EU safeguard measures on certain steel products
Several members voiced their concerns with the European Union's safeguard measures on certain steel products, including its most recent adjustments made to the measure.
In February 2019, the European Union decided to apply a definitive safeguard measure on 28 categories of steel products up to June 2021.
The United Kingdom submitted to the committee its new trade remedy legislations, which govern trade remedies instruments including safeguards. The UK explained the current situation as well as how the new system will operate when it leaves the EU on 1 January 2021.
The UK also submitted a notification regarding the initiation of an investigation on certain steel products. The UK said that the EU's safeguard measure on certain steel products will be “transitioned” and will continue in respect of UK territory, with adjustments made to ensure that it works specifically for the UK market. The UK-specific tariff rate quotas will come into effect on 31 December 2020. Foreign exporters will be given ample opportunity to engage in the transition review process, such as making submissions and requesting hearings.
Several members expressed concerns about the way the UK was proceeding. Switzerland, raising a separate agenda item, questioned the relationship between, on the one hand, the UK's notice of determination announced in September 2020 and, on the other hand, the transition review notified to the committee. Other members asked, for example, whether the UK did not need to embark on its own new investigation, or how the tariff rate quotas provided in the September determination were calculated.
Review of legislative notifications
The committee reviewed two dozen new safeguard legislative notifications from the following members: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Lao PDR, Liberia, Tonga, the United Kingdom (see above), Viet Nam and Zimbabwe. Members continued to discuss previously reviewed legislative notifications from Kenya and the United Arab Emirates.
Notifications of actions related to safeguard measures
The committee reviewed various notifications of actions related to safeguard measures received since the last committee meeting (November 2019) from the following members: Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; Egypt; members of the Eurasian Economic Union; the European Union (see above); member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council; Guatemala; India; Indonesia; Jordan; Madagascar; Malaysia; Morocco; Panama; the Philippines; South Africa; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; the United Kingdom (see above); the United States; and Viet Nam.
Other matters addressed as separate agenda items at the committee meeting included US measures on steel and aluminium (requested by India, Japan, the EU and Turkey), members' procedures during COVID-19 (requested by Australia and the US) and notifications of non-imposition of a safeguard measures (requested by Brazil).
The committee adopted a new notification format that encourages members to make certain notifications that enhance transparency.
The interim chair provided an update regarding the EU's request under Article 13.1(e) of the Agreement on Safeguards. The committee also adopted its annual report to the Council for Trade in Goods.
Election of officers
At the end of the meeting, Mr Mustafa Tuzcu (Turkey) was elected to be the new chair of the Safeguards Committee.
The next meeting of the Committee on Safeguards is provisionally scheduled for the week of 26 April 2021.
Under the WTO Safeguards Agreement, a member may restrict imports of a product temporarily (take “safeguard” actions) through higher tariffs or other measures if its domestic industry is seriously injured, or threatened with serious injury, due to an unforeseen surge in imports. Unlike anti-dumping duties, safeguard measures cover imports from all sources, although imports from developing country members with a small share of imports are exempted through special and differential treatment provisions.
More background on safeguards is available here.