היטלי הסחר הם אמצעי בו משתמשות רוב-רובן של המדינות החברות בארגון לפיתוח ושיתוף פעולה כלכלי (OECD), ובהן ארה"ב, חברות האיחוד-האירופי, אוסטרליה, קנדה ואחרות העומדות על המשמר במטרה להגן על התעשייה המקומית שלהן בעת חשיפתן לסחר לא הוגן, בתקופה זו העולם מבין שהסתגרות ליצור המקומי, חשיפת כלי הגנה לתעשייה בשעת הצורך ודאגה לפיתוח ותעסוקה הינן ערך משמעותי להתמודדות בתחרות גלובלית. . לנוכח המשבר הכלכלי העולמי מתרחבות פעילויות הפרוטקציוניזם וההגנה על מקומות התעסוקה (ראה נספח). למעשה, מדינת ישראל היא אחת המדינות הבודדות בעולם אשר מנטרלות למעשה אמצעי הגנה בפני סחר לא הוגן ובכך מאפשרות למשקים נוספים לנצל זאת ולייצא, דה פקטו, אבטלה לישראל.
ראה דרישה של האיחוד האירופי להגן על תעשיית הפלדה שלו באמצעות בקשה להיטל על יצוא גרוטאות:
European steelmakers requesting export restrictions on steel scrap
European steelmakers have requested the EU Commission to impose export restrictions on steel scrap from the EU in order to help preserve the stock of domestic raw materials. The EU steelmakers claim that export restrictions are necessary to save the European steel industry, which has been plagued by sagging demand and overcapacity forcing reduction in production capacity over the past year. In the recent past, approximately 20 countries have applied various forms of export restrictions on steel scrap, with many countries banning exports altogether.
The imposition of export restrictions (typically applied to safeguard domestic supply, for environmental protection, or for the promotion of downstream industries) will likely generate two potential effects: 1) international prices will rise for steel scrap; and 2) domestic steel scrap supply will increase. While this measure may initially restrict the world supply of steel scrap, it would not necessarily reduce demand. As a result, higher world prices may lead to increased exports from countries not applying such export restrictions. This lowers domestic supply in the countries that increased exports, which, in turn, raises steel prices for their producers, while prices for European steelmakers should be lower due to increased scrap reserves throughout the EU. Consequently, European steelmakers could purchase scrap at reduced costs, providing downstream steelmaking producers with price advantages over foreign producers at a time where such action may be necessary to stimulate an industry plagued by economic difficulties, production cuts and now facing the effects of the eurozone crisis.
However, while enacting export restrictions on steel scrap may aid European steelmakers, it is unlikely that the EU Commission will impose such measures at this time for a few reasons. First, enacting export restrictions on steel scrap would be in contravention of commitments that the EU Commission made in its EU Trade Policy for Raw Materials Second Activity Report issued on 30 May 2012, where it explained that the tackling of barriers in raw materials’ markets (i.e., export restrictions) is high on its agenda. Second, enacting export restrictions on steel scrap could possibly violate WTO law, including, inter alia, Articles XI and VIII of the GATT. Recently, the Appellate Body in China - Raw Materials affirmed that China’s quantitative export restrictions on bauxite were inconsistent with Article XI:1 of the GATT and not justified under Article XI:2(a) of the GATT (for additional background on the Appellate Body decision, see Trade Perspectives, Issue No. 3 of 10 February 2012). Additionally, the EU, along with the US and Japan formally requested consultations with China on 13 March 2012, concerning the latter’s alleged progressive cutting of its exports of rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum, citing concerns over resource preservation and the environmental ramifications of rare earths mining (see Trade Perspectives, Issue No. 6 of 23 March 2012).
Article XI of the GATT generally prohibits restrictions and prohibitions on exports. In WTO cases where a violation of Article XI of the GATT was found, the disputes involved allegations that the export restrictions enacted by a country were designed to offer an advantage to the downstream producers and processors of the country instituting the measure. It can be argued that any export restriction on European steel scrap would be designed to offer an advantage to European downstream producers and processers (i.e., steelmakers) currently experiencing economic difficulties. Accordingly, export restrictions enacted on steel scrap would be inconsistent with Article XI:1 of the GATT, unless they meet one of the exceptions listed under Article XI:2 or Article XX of the GATT. In examining Article XI:2(a) of the GATT, the Appellate Body in China – Raw Materials provided clarification regarding the meaning of the terms ‘critical shortage’ and ‘essentiality’ relating to any proposed export restrictions introduced on steel scrap by the EU. Applying the China – Raw Materials ruling, an export restriction enacted on steel scrap must relate to critical shortages of otherwise absolutely indispensable or necessary product. In addition, the EU must show that the ‘criticality’ of its potential export restriction has the expectation of reaching a point in time at which the conditions in the steel sector leading to the measures will no longer be ‘critical’. At this point, the measures taken will no longer be required and, therefore, removed. The EU Commission must have the ability to demonstrate that export restrictions taken on steel scrap are ‘temporarily applied’ to either prevent or relieve a ‘critical shortage’ in the industry, which could be difficult to prove at this moment.
Approximately 20% of the global steel scrap trade is currently subject to export restrictions. Consequently, it has been difficult to isolate the specific impact resulting from one country’s measures due to the differing types of restrictions being applied globally. Should the steel industry’s position become increasingly dire to the point where EU Member States would support export restrictions, it is important to keep in mind that such measures could potentially cause reciprocal actions from other countries where steel producers are facing similar difficulties, such as the US. In this situation, global prices could rise with minimal benefit to European steel producers. Consequently, the EU Commission should only enact export restrictions where such measures are undoubtedly necessary. With some Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) members purportedly voicing strong opposition to such action by the EU Commission, and a healthy world steel industry depending on free trade in raw materials, it might be beneficial to pursue other means to aid Europe’s ailing steel industry. Such measures might include direct support or subsidies; enacting measures that avoid price distortions, which may cause an inefficient allocation of resources; or establishing a specific tax on the operating income of steel scrap suppliers, with resources generated from the tax going towards development and innovation products in the steelmaking sectors. The evolution of future discussions between European steelmakers and the EU Commission relating to the potential imposition of export restrictions on steel scrap should be carefully monitored by all European businesses operating in, or working with, the steelmaking sector.