The European Steel Association EUROFER has welcomed the EU’s decision, announced on 14 January 2021, to request the WTO establish a panel in order to seek the elimination of unlawful export restrictions imposed by Indonesia on raw materials necessary for the production of stainless steel, notably nickel ore and iron ore. EUROFER said “Taking action at the WTO is fundamental to prevent third countries, such as Indonesia, aggressive and illegal sectoral industrial policies undermining global trade and resulting in artificial cost distortions and overcapacities.”
EUROFER added “In parallel to the action initiated by the EU at WTO level, it remains essential that the Commission continues to act swiftly and vigorously by deploying the trade defence instruments available to it under EU law. TDIs can begin to tackle the unfair practices and trade distortions that gravely affect the European industry.”
Indonesia has been engaging in an aggressive expansion of its nickel processing and stainless steel sectors. This began in 2014, with Indonesia banning the exports of nickel-bearing raw materials to ensure its nascent domestic stainless production had access to below-market price inputs.
Nickel is an important component in the production of stainless steels. 55% of all stainless steels contain nickel because it improves corrosion resistance and improves the alloy’s properties. Indonesia’s hoarding of this material inflates the competitiveness of its stainless steel industry.