The reality of the steel safeguard measure is that imports lie waiting in bonded warehouses as quarterly quotas are often exhausted on the first day. This not only creates a ‘first day’ rush on stocks, but also creates uncertainty around what percentage applies to import duties. Despite the measure’s anachronous nature, it was extended for a further three years in 2021, leading EURANIMI members to launch an appeal with the European Court of Justice in March 2023.
On October 4, 2023, the Courts reached a verdict. Although our plea requesting the annulment of the safeguard measure was rejected, the Courts’ judgement contains an important win for EURANIMI and its members: it recognised our association’s legal standing.
Lengthy Legal Process
Legally speaking, this is of great significance according to the EURANIMI legal team. “It allows trade associations like EURANIMI direct access to the General Court of the European Union in order to challenge safeguard measures and I would say trade defence measures.”
Importer companies – which fall under the national jurisdictions of member states and their Courts – can access the Court of Justice of the European Union following a national, preliminary ruling. But this is a lengthy and costly process which can have varying outcomes with each company acting individually.
EC Argues Inadmissibility
As an association, EURANIMI isn’t technically speaking an importer, and as such isn’t affected by the safeguard measure or its prolongation. Or so the European Commission argued. However, in its judgement, the Court rejected the EC’s request to declare EURANIMI’s action inadmissible.
With a complete change of jurisprudence in favour of EURANIMI, the General Court elaborates in depth confirming that EURANIMI has full interest and standing to represent its associates not only during the administrative investigations before the European Commission but also before the General Court and EU Court. In other words, EURANIMI is fully entitled to bring those cases in the EU Court on behalf of its associates and to participate in the Commission’s investigations on behalf of its associates.
This is a complete turnaround compared to the Court’s approach in previous anti-dumping cases. It results from our line of defence at the March 2023 hearing which clearly explained that, contrary to companies, either EURANIMI is granted access to the EU Court or it has no other judicial avenue available. This also re-establishes an equilibrium with Chinese and Exporters associations that have previously been granted the same rights to access the EU Court.
“If the General Court had denied the admissibility of EURANIMI’s action, the latter association would be left without any legal protection and possible judicial review. It is therefore fair and welcome that European associations like EURANIMI could have their right to judicial protection guaranteed directly by the EU General Court.”
On the merits of our case, the Court disagrees with our request for the annulment of the safeguard measure, rejecting our arguments in a way that, in our view, can be rediscussed on appeal before the Court of Justice. We’re internally discussing how to further proceed with the member companies involved in the case.