* EU investigating anti-dumping charge
* EU steel industry vulnerable even after price rise
By Barbara Lewis
LONDON, Feb 16 Iranian steel imports have become
the latest threat to European steelmakers, their trade group
said on Thursday, after imports from Iran rose by nearly eight
times between 2013 and 2016.
Steel lobby group Eurofer said on Thursday that Iranian
exports to Europe had leapt to just over 1 million tonnes
annually, putting the country just behind India at 1.9 million
tonnes, while China shipped 5.7 million tonnes in 2016.
"The threat from Iran is new and it's going to be one of the
top three issues: China, India, Iran," Karl Tachelet, external
relations and trade director at Eurofer, told Reuters.
Iran has sought to boost its steel sector, with help from
foreign partners, as it targeted economic expansion following
the 2015 deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme in return for an
easing of sanctions.
But Tehran has said it is considering export duties on iron
ore, as India has done, which would increase the availability of
cheap raw materials for its own steelmakers.
Eurofer, which represents an industry that has to import its
iron ore, says that amounts to protectionism. Iranian officials
contacted by Reuters for comment did not immediately respond.
On Wednesday, after a two-day conference on steel in Tehran,
Iran said it aims to export between 20 and 25 million tonnes
annually by 2025 and to increase total output to 55 million
tonnes from an estimated 16 million tonnes now.
That compares with a global market of 1.6 billion tonnes.
China, the world's top producer and consumer of steel, is a
dominant player in Iran, where other countries have struggled
with the complexity of political and logistical hurdles.
And while cutting its own capacity, China has been building
steel operations elsewhere, including on the edge of the
European Union in Serbia.
The EU is investigating alleged dumping of hot-rolled steel
by producers in Serbia and Iran as well as Brazil, Russia and
It has already imposed penalties on China, prompting an
angry response and a WTO complaint from Beijing.
Eurofer says EU measures against nations such as China have
helped to revive an industry that was deeply in crisis in late
2015 and early 2016 when steel prices were very low.
Prices have since recovered, but industry officials say the
market remains fragile and cannot cope with capacity increases,
while politicians in Europe balk at capacity reductions.
"A European commodity steel business won't be sustainable in
the long term unless the external parameters (such as
anti-dumping duties or capacity reductions) change," Wolfgang
Eder, CEO of Voestalpine, told Reuters on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt; Editing
by Alexander Smith)