Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke has responded to Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on steel imports by raising the issue today with Prime Minister Theresa May, the United States Ambassador and the Minister for Trade, Greg Hands.
The President has warned that steel products coming into the US will face a 25% tariff, with 10% on aluminium goods. This poses a major problem for the UK steel industry, still recovering from the crisis caused by Chinese steel dumping in 2015 which led to the closure of the SSI site at Redcar.
Mr Clarke, who represents British Steel Special Profiles at Skinningrove, has called on the Government to do everything in its power to warn the President against what he calls “an act of huge economic and political self-harm”.
He raised the issue with Prime Minister Theresa May at a meeting of Conservative MPs in Westminster on Monday afternoon, following that up with an evening meeting with the US Ambassador, Woody Johnson, hosted by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. He has also arranged to meet Trade Minister Greg Hands for talks on trade remedies and the response that the Government will undertake if the President presses ahead with his plan.
Speaking tonight, Simon Clarke MP said, “A global trade war over steel would make everyone poorer and be an act of huge economic and political self-harm for the USA. Immediately after the President issued his threat, I contacted the Managing Director of British Steel, Peter Gate, who told me just how damaging this would be to the Special Profiles business. The bitter irony is that much of what is produced at Skinningrove is not manufactured in the US, so they are not competing with American firms anyway.
“I know colleagues from all parties will be making the case passionately that this is a truly bad decision that it is in everyone’s interest to rethink. I made that point forcefully to the US Ambassador this evening in what was a productive conversation, and I have also consulted with colleagues at the very top of our Government. The Prime Minister told me she had talked with President Trump about this over the weekend and that the Government is flatly opposed to anything which would damage free trade. I will be holding discussions with the Trade Minister in the days ahead about the options open to us.
“I will do everything I can to encourage the Government to fight our corner hard and to press for the tariffs not to go ahead, or, if they do, for there to be exemptions for UK steel. I don’t like tariffs full stop, but if the President is determined to go down this path then his problem is with the Chinese, not us. Our industry does not pose a threat to American jobs, but these tariffs certainly do pose a threat to UK steel workers. I will fight them every step of the way.”