Trade union Solidarity says South African exporters of steel and aluminium products are under severe pressure after the US recently granted Canada and Mexico exemption from steel and aluminium tariffs.
The US in May lifted the 25% tariff on steel and the 10% tariff on aluminium for Canada and Mexico.
Solidarity deputy general secretary Marius Croucamp says this exemption has resulted in cheaper prices for Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminium, compared with the South African price for steel.
“South African manufacturers and steel exporters, including Duferco, Cisco, Columbus Stainless, South32 and ArcelorMittal South Africa, find themselves in a dire situation, with exports to the US rapidly drying up.
“Factories have started retrenching employees and it is possible that factories may close down,” he says.
Croucamp argues that the lifting of the tariffs are a further setback for the struggling South African steel industry, which is already burdened by higher electricity tariffs and the implementation of a carbon tax.
Solidarity earlier this month requested Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel to set up a meeting with major role-players in the South African steel industry to discuss these issues.