The EU is debating whether to impose tariffs on exports of steel pipes from Turkey, Macedonia and Ukraine.
By Aleksandar Pavlevski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 31/05/12
The steel products are mostly used in the construction industry and to build ships, trucks and farm equipment. [Reuters]
After the EU launched an investigation into whether exporters of welded steel pipes and profiles from Turkey, Macedonia and Ukraine are selling their products to the European market at prices lower than those of European manufacturers, the three countries have turned the tables, accusing the Union is practicing unprincipled protectionism.
The investigation was initiated on the basis of an appeal to the Union from several European steel pipe manufacturers. They asked for a probe to determine whether the countries' exports had inflicted damage on the industry within the Union.
"If the EU imposes a ban on Macedonian producers for export to Europe, we believe it will adversely affect our business. It will certainly have negative consequences for the country's economy as a whole," Mite Shapkovski, the owner of the Metalopromet factory in Strumica, told SETimes.
Shapkovski's company is one of the three from Macedonia that are being investigated.
The total volume of pipe production by factories in Europe during 2011 was 3,250,000 tonnes -- while imports from Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine to Europe totaled 340,000 tonnes.
The European market has a capacity for more than 3,000,000 tonnes of pipes and profiles annually. Before the economic crisis that engulfed first the metal sector in the second half of 2008, that figure ranged to over 4,000,000 tonnes.
The steel products are mostly used in the construction industry to build ships, trucks, farm equipment, metal furniture, windows and toys.
If Brussels decides to impose additional charges, Macedonia's exports in particular will suffer tremendous damage. Two of the three export companies are listed in the top 100 exporters in Macedonia.
"For us, the European market is our principal, which means that if they did ban, we will have major financial consequences and [have to fire] employees," Slobodan Bogdanovski, from the FCZ 11 October factory in Kumanovo, told SETimes.
Mehmet Zeren, general secretary of the Turkish Steel Pipe Manufacturers Association, told SETimes that Turkey has been also witnessing a number of anti-dumping investigations from the EU countries concerning its export products.
"Although our producers have never sold any product with anti-dumping procedures, such unfair investigations are disturbing us in a great sense," Zeren said. "Our exporters had been obliged to spare their time to such procedures instead of concentrating on their business."
"It is an excuse to impose protectionism, nothing more. Can a company from Macedonia make European corporations go bankrupt? It is ridiculous," Victor Trifunovski, an economic analyst and businessman from Macedonia, told SETimes.
The commission will have nine months to decide whether to impose provisional anti-dumping fees for a period of six months, while EU governments have 15 months to decide whether to impose definitive duties for a period of five years.
Southeast European Times correspondent Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul contributed to this report.