South African Steel Shield: Unraveling New Import Duties

NEASAImage Source: Oreaco


In a surprising move, additional duties introduced in December 2023 aim to shield ArcelorMittal South Africa. However, these duties extend to galvanized coil specifications not produced by AMSA, jeopardizing established markets. The 60-year-old mill struggles against modern counterparts, raising questions about the practicality of protecting an outdated industry. Despite warnings from NEASA in 2015 about the adverse effects of such duties, Minister Patel persists, contributing to a 20% decline in the steel industry. The long-term consequences of this protectionist policy may accelerate de-industrialization, impacting AMSA and the entire steel downstream.


In a turn of events that has left industry observers baffled, a fresh set of import duties surfaced in December 2023, seemingly designed to safeguard AMSA. However, the intricacies of these duties reveal an unsettling reality – certain galvanized coil specifications targeted are not within the manufacturing purview of AMSA. This discrepancy sparks concerns about the rationale behind shielding a steel giant from competition it doesn't directly engage with.

The products affected by these new duties have cultivated markets over years, with established players catering to specific needs. Yet, the imposition of duties, in this case, seems misplaced, as AMSA's aging infrastructure struggles to match the technological prowess of modern mills. The question that looms large is whether protecting outdated technology is a sustainable strategy in a dynamic and evolving industry.

This situation echoes warnings issued by the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) in 2015 when initial import duties were introduced. NEASA foresaw that these duties, by exerting upward pressure on prices, could detrimentally impact the steel downstream, leading to a reduction in overall industry volumes. Recent acknowledgments from AMSA indicate a 20% decline in the steel industry, attributing a significant role to the impact of duties.

Importantly, the paradox of protectionist policies becomes evident when considering their long-term implications. While aimed at shielding domestic industries, such duties inadvertently set off a detrimental cycle. The decline in AMSA's customer base, triggered by higher prices influenced by duties, compels the company to seek sustained or increased duty protection. This, in turn, exacerbates the erosion of its customer base, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of decline.

Despite the evident negative consequences, Minister Patel persists in introducing and renewing these duties. The persistent question arises: what drives this policy? Why cling to an approach that seemingly hampers the competitiveness of the steel downstream, contributing to a concerning trend of de-industrialization? This trend not only affects unemployment rates but also poses socio-economic stability challenges.

The chief executive of NEASA, Gerhard Papenfus, points out the myopic nature of such interventions. While AMSA may gain in the short term, the long-term repercussions for themselves, their customers, and the broader industry could be severe. It raises concerns about the sustainability of such protectionist measures in an era where industries must adapt and innovate to thrive.

In essence, the government's continued interference in the steel industry through import duties presents a clear risk to its long-term viability. The inevitable outcome may be the slow demise of the industry and, ultimately, the disappearance of AMSA.


In conclusion, the recent introduction of import duties, ostensibly to shield AMSA, unveils a complex scenario. The misalignment between targeted products and AMSA's production raises doubts about the effectiveness of protecting an aging giant in a rapidly evolving industry. NEASA's earlier warnings about the adverse effects of such duties appear prescient, as the steel industry experiences a significant decline. The persistence of such protectionist policies poses a long-term risk, potentially accelerating the decline of the steel industry and leading to the eventual disappearance of AMSA.

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