BY LIZ NEWMARK in Brussels
Scheduled to come into force on December 20, they may help
the EU impose anti-dumping duties against dumped industrial
mineral exports from China.
"We are in favor of anything that helps the internal
market," European Industrial Minerals Association (IMA Europe)
secretary general Dr Roger Doome told Industrial Minerals,
emphasizing, "with magnesium, a critical raw material, there is
a clear position of anti-dumping."
"If the new rules improve anti-dumping measures, then this
is a good development," Doome made clear, adding, "It is always
good to have corrective measures."
The crux of the changes to the anti-dumping rules is the
introduction of a new "non-standard anti-dumping methodology"
(NADM). This will allow anti-dumping duties to be imposed on
imports from non-EU countries, where export industries benefit
from significant market distortions or where their government
has a pervasive influence on the economy. While it is not
named, China is a clear target of these reforms, given its
insistence on being treated as a free market country at the
WTO, despite the often over-weaning impact of the Chinese state
on its industry and economy.
The new anti-dumping system "will identify and redress cases
where prices of imported products are artificially lowered due
to state intervention," the Council said on December 4. In the
industrial minerals sector, potential targets for anti-dumping
duties against China, along with magnesium and magnesite, are
graphite and chromite.
The dumping regulation change comes as the EU has agreed
broader reforms to its collective trade defense instruments
(TDIs), a deal being reached by the Council, European
Parliament and European Commission the next day (December 5).
This includes amendments to how the EU imposes countervailing
as well as anti-dumping duties. In some cases, this will mean
the EU can impose higher duties on dumped products in future by
waiving the EU’s "lesser duty rule", which has in
the past insisted that protection is limited to levels that
would prevent harm to EU mineral and other producers. Now
duties can match the level of dumping, even where EU producers
do not need that level of protection to stop losing money
because of cut priced import competition
The new TDI rules contain improvements such as a minimum
target profit of 6% when calculating injury margins (so any
less profit can be deemed to be a commercial problem). They
also shortened the current nine-month investigation period, "to
impose provisional measures and make the system more
transparent," a Commission press note said. There will be an
early warning system to help companies adapt to the new
situation and smaller firms will be assisted by a special help
"Together with the recently-agreed changes to the
anti-dumping methodology, the EU’s tool box of
trade defence instruments is in shape to deal with global
challenges," EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said,
adding a sentiment echoed by all industries: "better late than
The negotiations on these TDI reforms have taken four years,
while this is the first major overhaul of the EU’s
anti-dumping and anti-subsidy instruments in 15 years, the
Unsurprisingly, after all this time, the minerals industry
is keen to see what happens in practice before making final
judgements. "We are withholding any comment on the TDI
agreement until the final text has been published," one
executive, who requested anonymity, said.
"It is very difficult to draw conclusions about the future
impact of the new rules for the EU industry as a whole, even
more difficult to draw conclusions for one particular sector,"
he argued. "But we are hopeful that these new rules will allow
the Commission to maintain the same level of efficiency as
today and that it will not lead to a higher standard to open
new cases and to lower duties."
And AEGIS Europe, an alliance of 29 companies representing
EU manufacturing interests, and including Euromines, the
European association of mining industries, metal ores and
industrial minerals, and ceramic industry association
Cerame-Unie, said on November 16 that "to be truly effective,
EU industry depends on the Commission to vigorously apply and
enforce the new rules".
The Commission said the anti-dumping measures "are
formulated in a country-neutral way and in full compliance with
the EU’s WTO [World Trade Organisation]
obligations." However, most discussions surrounding the change,
however, focus on China – that, from December 11,
2016, under the protocol of China’s accession to
the WTO, is now seen formally as a market economy.
Mrs Malmström assured MEPs at the November 16
Parliament plenary debate that the system did not target China.
But a Chinese ministry of commerce official based in Brussels
disagreed, arguing "the new law granting separate treatment for
imports under 'significant market distortions’
does not comply with WTO rules."
China will raise the matter with the WTO to "protect the
rights of Chinese companies," he said, adding the move had
already been questioned by many WTO members, including
And a manager from Spanish minerals company, who also
requested anonymity, that told Industrial Minerals that when
considering market distortions, it was "not just China," Russia
and Turkey were also important mineral-producing countries.
For her too, success of the new system will "depend on how
the European Commission implements it," she said. "We need to
wait and see the different reports on different sectors and
The Commission is currently carrying out economic
assessments of China to see if there are "significant market
distortions", but sectoral analysis is only provided for
ceramics, steel, aluminium (in development) and chemicals.
Industrial mineral experts singled out ceramics and
tableware - finished products made of industrial minerals - as
important to the debate. On November 23, anti-dumping measures
on Chinese imports of ceramic tiles were renewed for another
But generally, "We are not suffering from massive imports,"
IMA-Europe’s Doome said. "Most minerals we deal
with are either produced in the EU or exported, for example by
[global material solutions company] Sibelco, while China tries
to keep its minerals inside the country. We do not have many
minerals 'long distance travelling’."
As for actual anti-dumping cases, "legally speaking, no
comments can be made on any potential requests to launch trade
defence proceedings until they are actually launched," a
Commission source said. Investigations have been made into
dumping of magnesia bricks and graphite electrode systems, but
these terminated in 2011. Minerals industry experts also told
Industrial Minerals "any ongoing cases are confidential."
At present, trade in minerals between the EU and China is
healthy, judging by statistics from EU statistical agency
Eurostat. The EU imported €337.7 million’s
($398 million) worth of salt, sulfur, earths and stone, plaster
materials, lime and cement from China in 2016, a slight
decrease on 2015’s trade level (€372.4
Breaking this down, the EU imported a substantial
€91.14 million’s worth of magnesium and
magnesite materials from China in 2016, although this is less
than the €129.96 million recorded in 2015.
Natural graphite imports were about three times as much:
€31.96 million’s worth in 2016 and €32.1
million in 2015.
Trade of minerals to China is also buoyant – with a
global €446.8 million’s worth exported in
2016 and €432.4 million in 2015.