Steel Sector

Impact of US and EU Policies on the ASEAN Steel Sector

The energy intensity of the US steel industry is one of the lowest among major developed and developing economies. The US steel industry’s final energy intensity stood at 12 GJ/ton of crude steel compared to China’s 19 GJ/ton in 2019. Total carbon intensity in the US was 950 kg CO2 /ton of crude steel compared to China’s .2,250 kg CO2/ton of crude steel. The low energy and carbon intensity of the US steel industry is attributed to the high use of the EAF process (EAF’s share in steel production in the US was 63% compared to 6% in China in 2016). Hence, as green initiatives are undertaken to decarbonize the US steel industry, the critical aspect is to establish a trading scheme to limit imports of high-carbon steel to avoid decarbonization costs. The US was the world’s largest steel importer in 2019, purchasing 26.3 mn. metric tons of steel, 15% lower than the 30.8 mn. metric tons of steel it imported in 2018. 

The US steel industry has accorded top priority to monitoring the environmental impact of steel products through the enforcement of trade laws to restrict dumping and through decarbonization initiatives in the industry. The US entered into an agreement with the European Union in October 2021 to replace its 25% steel and 10% aluminum tariffs imposed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 with a new tariff rate quota (TRQ) system effective January 2022. EU steel and aluminum imports will be free of Section 232 tariffs until the volume quota is reached, following which imports will be subject to tariffs unless an exclusion request for Section 232 is processed. 

As per the new regulations, the TRQ will be administered quarterly for steel and half-yearly for aluminum. The overall annual import quota amount is to be allocated to 54 steel and 16 aluminum quota categories. The US government and associated stakeholders in the US steel industry are mulling and enforcing similar tariff regulations on Chinese and other non-EU steel to prevent these manufacturers from flooding their products to the US.

The assessment of carbon intensity of finished steel products is another step taken by US regulators to complement decarbonization efforts in the steel sector. The US government has begun work to establish a working group to negotiate steel and aluminum trade arrangements that consider the global excess capacity and the carbon intensity of final products. Since the US has one of the cleanest steel industries in the world, the new trade border adjustment mechanism considers the carbon intensity of steel imports in the country.

The EU has also stepped-up efforts to minimize its carbon footprint, introducing border tax to prevent the dumping of carbon-intensive products, such as steel, cement and aluminum, within its shores. It plans to implement a carbon border tax — the first in the world — on imports of carbon-intensive products, such as steel, cement, aluminum, electricity and fertilizers, as part of its strategy to meet its climate goals. The border tax will be levied in a phased manner from 2026 to shield EU industries from non-EU global competitors, which offer products at lower costs, due to no- to low-carbon-emission charges. 

The introduction of US and EU trade barriers for decarbonization has had the highest impact on ASEAN manufacturers, whose products are driven by cost competitiveness and cheap labor. However, the products are unlikely to meet the climate standards of the US or the EU, due to their high carbon content/energy intensity. Carbon offsetting can be a suitable strategy to minimize carbon footprint and presents a clear opportunity to ASEAN steel manufacturers exporting to the US and the EU for sustainable trade. 

Gunung Capital (GC) offers a slew of services to steel producers to meet their carbon reduction and sustainability targets: 

  • Abatement — Assists organizations in preventing, reducing or eliminating GHG emissions within their value chain through different abatement solutions such as sustainable sourcing, carbon offsets or net-zero power purchase agreements
  • Compensation and neutralization — Offers high-quality spot and forward verified emission reductions and carbon removals, creating certainty for buyers and amplifying climate and social benefits by pre-financing new projects
  • Carbon-neutral trade — Supports clients in their transition to low carbon operations and assists with communicating for a result that their products could achieve environmental impact and aligned with a net-zero road map.

 

The approach adopted by GC enables transparent tracking and bundling of carbon offsets with steel to ensure accredited and third-party-verified carbon-neutral steel.

carbon offset

While companies can invest in electric arc furnaces (EAF) to comply with environmental norms and become more resilient, carbon offsetting provides steel manufacturers with a scalable, implementable and economical way to sustain their business in the short term. As US trade laws on carbon-intensive commodities continue to evolve, investments in carbon offsets help lower concerns about the impact of such products on environmental security.

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