The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) wants government to appeal the decision by American President Donald Trump on Tuesday not to grant South Africa exemption from steel and aluminium tariffs as this decision will only accelerate job losses in the manufacturing and mining industries, sectors that have already shed thousands of jobs due to the unfavourable global economic situation.
FEDUSA believes that at any rate South African steel and aluminium exports to the US are so negligible as to constitute any threat to that country’s national security.
According to the figures that have been cited by the Department of Trade and Industry from the US Census Bureau data, in 2017 the US imported a total of 33.4 million tons of steel, of which imports from SA were approximately 330 000 tons or 0.98% of total US imports and 0.3% of total US steel demand of 107 million tons, the 330 kilo tons exported from SA represents only 5% of SA production equating to roughly 7500 jobs in the steel supply chain.
“As such, SA does not pose a threat to US national security and to the US steel and aluminium industries but is a source of strategic primary and secondary products used in further value added manufacturing in the US contributing to jobs in both countries. However, due to these measures, SA will be disproportionately affected both in terms of jobs and productive capacity. Furthermore, SA offered to restrict exports to a quota based on 2017 exports level. However, despite these assurances, the United States has decided not to exempt South Africa from the duties,” the DTI said in a statement.
“It is important to note that some of the exempted countries are the biggest exporters of steel and aluminium to the United States. For steel imports: collectively, countries granted exemption accounted for 58% of total steel imports into the United States in 2017. For aluminium imports: collectively, countries granted exemptions accounted for 49% of total aluminium imports into the United States over the same period”.
FEDUSA will be working with International Trade Union Confederation and other fraternal labour formations in the US to exert pressure on the Trump administration to reconsider its tariff decision against South Africa.
FEDUSA General Secretary Dennis George said it ironic that the decision to exclude South Africa from the tariff exemptions was taken after President Trump played a round of gold with Australian businessman Joe Hockey.