We Love You, Free Trade! You’re Perfect… Now Change!

Welcome back to the MetalMiner Week-in-Review! As the week began we marveled at (and questioned) the latest GDP figures from China, as the People’s Republic is chugging along at 6.7% despite a slowdown pretty much everywhere else.

Is it time to exit free trade pacts?
Free trade, what is it good for? Source: Adobe Stock/Argus.

This happened even as we received yet another warning that global steel overcapacity, particularly production in China, must change. This strange dichotomy of demanding that China change while also relying on her for growth to bolster the global economy seemed to haunt our coverage like a particularly effective Halloween ghost this week.

Anti-Dumping Duties for Overproduced Products

There were final tariffs for welded circular steel pipe, some as high as 113%, this week. Then vanadium from South Korea got the same treatment.

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The world seems more protectionist every day. It’s not just the U.S. The European Union is coming very close to scuttling its long-term trade agreement with Canada, the European and Canadian Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, over the objections of a regional government in the German-speaking Wallonia area in Belgium.

No Free Love for Free Trade

So our love-hate relationship with global trade continues. We need China and the Republic of Korea’s products, but we also need their markets for the finished products that U.S. and European manufacturers make. ThyssenKrupp AG found itself in a particularly rough place, recently, when it supported E.U. steel tariffs to protect its steel industry, while its other division that produces and sells elevators to foreign markets saw its products hit with the duties.

We Love You, Free Trade. You’re Perfect. Now Change.

Our own Stuart Burns wrote that, “Within any free trade agreement there are always winners and losers. When the government to government FTAs are negotiated and agreed, a balanced judgement is made as to whether the agreement has overall benefits for each party.”

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With today’s 24-hour news and analysis cycle, never have more industries and stakeholders been able to KNOW who the winners and losers will be. It’s how a Wallonia can know that places such as Berlin and Ontario will benefit far more from CETA than it will. In the U.S., this would be akin to Western Pennsylvania getting a veto over NAFTA in 1994. Transparency is a good thing in trade and government but that transparent information can be a cudgel or a veto pen. You still can’t help but think, shouldn’t the potential winners have the same amount of votes as the potential losers?

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