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BELGRADE (Serbia), July 2 (SeeNews) - Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic said the European Commission should exclude the country from the planned restrictions on steel imports into the EU.
By imposing restrictions on steel imports from Serbia, the European Union would violate the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) it had signed with Belgrade, Brnabic said on Monday, according to a government press release.
Serbia respects the agreement, as it is not providing state aid to its steelmaker as some other countries without a SAA do, Brnabic noted, adding that the EU should not treat Serbia as a third country, as the SAA is practically equal to a free trade agreement with Brussels.
Last month, the European Commission said it plans to accelerate its review of safeguards on EU imports of steel products. The Commission has been under pressure to tighten the safeguard quotas, while buyers and traders have pushed for relaxation of the restrictions. It began a review of the measures on May 17 and expects to conclude the investigation before September 30.
The Commission said earlier this year it plans to introduce safeguard measures on steel imports to shield European steel producers following the trade diversion of steel into the EU market from other producers around the world as a result of the unilateral US measures restricting imports of steel to the American market.
The planned measures which are meant to replace the provisional measures in place since July 2018, have caused concerns in Serbia, which generates between 1.0% and 1.5% of its gross domestic product from sales of the output of its steel mill Zelezara Smederevo. The steel mill exports the bulk of its output to the EU.
HBIS Group Serbia, a subsidiary of China's Hebei Iron & Steel Group, took over the management and ownership of Zelezara Smederevo in July 2016, three months after the government agreed to sell the steel mill to the Chinese group for 46 million euro ($52.3 million).
($ = 0.885732 euro)