FRANKFURT, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine has set up a “Taskforce USA” to monitor the effects of President Donald Trump’s decisions on its business, which includes a new $1 billion sponge-iron plant in Texas.
The plant in Corpus Christi, Texas, is the largest investment in the United States by an Austrian company. Voestalpine picked the United States mainly for its access to cheap energy.
The team consists of eight members representing the company’s four divisions, equally split between Austria and the United States, and includes legal, treasury and international trade experts, Chief Executive Wolfgang Eder said.
“Developments for the next six, 12 or 24 months are very hard to estimate,” he told reporters in Frankfurt.
The team members, who are still doing their regular jobs, hold phone conferences and give concise briefings to management, he said.
Voestalpine generated annual revenue of about 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in the NAFTA free trade area of the United States, Mexico and Canada in its 2015/16 business year and aims to reach 3 billion euros by 2020. North America currently accounts for around 11 percent of total sales.
Trump has said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA and has proposed a border tax on imports from Mexico, aiming to attract manufacturing jobs from there to the United States.
Eder said about a third of Voestalpine’s production in Mexico, much of which is for international carmakers’ plants there, is destined for the United States.
Voestalpine’s total exports to the United States are about 300 million euros a year. It also sends about a third of the sponge iron it produces in Texas back to Austria as raw material for its high-end steel products.
“We have invested in North America, just as the new president wants,” Eder said. “We are deeply convinced it was the right decision ... We invest for the long term, not for the term of one president.”
Separately, the European steelmakers’ trade group said on Thursday Iranian imports had emerged as the latest threat to their business, with imports from the country up by nearly eight times between 2013 and 2016.
$1 = 0.9373 euros Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Mark Potter