When I was a schoolboy some rather smug wag made me look utterly foolish by asking me which I thought would weigh more: a ton of steel or a ton of feathers? “Oh the steel, obviously” I said. Think about it.
Fast forward 25 years and the subject of steel is ruffling feathers in Britain and there must be something about this juxtaposition that makes an awful lot of people appear utterly foolish, most notably those that are spluttering with indignation about this ‘slap in the face’, ‘kick in the shins’, ‘punch up the trousers’ delivered to Britain by the US government’s decision to raise tarrifs. So much for the ‘Special Relationship’, eh.
So much for superficial analysis. Take a pill, John and Jane Bull, for this English patriot is far from ruffled.
This is not to say that British steel production is not significant. It is. In fact, in 1995 it was Britain was the third largest producer in the world. What is insignificant is British exports to the US which account for less than 4% of our total exports. The vast majority of British sales go to the domestic market or Europe.
The really big players in the US market are producers in countries like China and South Korea who, faced with the tarrifs, will turn to Britain and Europe to sell their far more attractively priced steel. That means that prices will drop for the British consumer and British steel producers will have to get leaner, meaner and more innovative in order to remain competitive.
In other words, it is good news for the British economy for precisely the same reason that it is bad news for the US one and, whilst it would be a stretch to suggest that this was Mr.Bush’s intention, it is his fellow Americans that he has ‘slapped in the face’ not us Brits.