Aço Brasil ready to go to US trade court over Section 232 tariffs, Lopes says

Brazilian steel institute Aço Brasil is ready to go before the United States Court of International Trade (CIT) if US President Donald Trump proceeds with the reinstatement of tariffs against the nation under Section 232, executive president Marco Polo de Mello Lopes said on Thursday December 5.

As of now, however, there is no clear indication on whether the current quota system will be abandoned, he added.

Brazilian authorities are doing a “highly professional job” in trying to sort the situation out with the US administration, Lopes said.

“What we have up until now is a tweet,” he told journalists. “Of course that tweet is worrisome, as it has virtually halted spot negotiations with the US, but at least cargoes under longer-term contracts are proceeding normally.”

Trump accused Brazil and Argentina of presiding a “massive devaluation of their currencies” and said on social network Twitter that a 25% tariff under Section 232 would be restored immediately in response to that movement.

But as of Thursday it was not clear whether the tariff would be charged.

“Section 232 has its own rules that must be respected, even the president himself cannot impose tariffs overnight,” Lopes said. “Two law offices that deal with international trade cases have approached us, and - if the need arises - we could file a complaint with the CIT.”

Trump’s announcement was tweeted amid negotiations for Brazilian slab shipments to the US, mainly for second-quarter delivery. Mills were presenting the semi-finished steel product at $380-390 per tonne on an fob basis last week, market participants said.

Fastmarkets’ assessment for steel slab export, fob main port Brazil was at $360-380 per tonne on November 29, narrowing upward from $355-380 per tonne a week earlier and up from $345-355 per tonne on November 15.

Under Section 232, Brazil can export up to 3.5 million tonnes per year of semi-finished steel and 687,000 tpy of finished steel to the US. Shipments cannot surpass 30% of the annual quota in any quarter.

The news comes less than two months after Aço Brasil took its plea to the US government in October to soothe current quota rules, Lopes said.

Brazil was looking for either full exemption for semi-finished steel or at least a “soft quota” mechanism, through which any volumes exceeding the limit would be subject to the tariff rather than not being allowed into the country.

“The US industry needs our semi-finished steel, especially slab, so it would make sense for the rules to be softened,” Lopes said. “[For the US] to reintroduce tariffs over our products is to shoot themselves in the foot.”

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