BTR Siebe was this week in danger of becoming a casualty in the EU-US banana trade war, following the threat of 100% retaliatory import tariffs on a range of goods that includes industrial storage batteries.
Through its Hawker, Chloride and Tungsten brands, the industrial group, which employs up to 2,000 people, forms the bulk of the UK’s £100m industry. It is the UK’s biggest exporter of lead-acid storage batteries to the US, a trade worth an annual £14m.
As The Engineer went to press, the company was awaiting the outcome of talks expected to run late into Thursday night.
If no settlement is reached, tariffs will rise from 8% to 100% sometime between 1 February and 3 March, a timetable set by World Trade Organisation rules.
‘We were surprised by the list,’ said a BTR-Siebe spokesman. ‘One engineering product stands out and we can’t understand why.’
Trade minister Brian Wilson attacked the US decision to hit firms ‘that bear no responsibility for the Americans’ difficulties’. He estimates that sanctions could put 2,400 UK jobs at risk.
The dispute centres on the EU banana import regime. The EU gives preferential terms to bananas imported from former British and French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.
The US acts as distributor for the fruit from several Latin American countries.
Other goods hit include certain propylene polymer goods non-adhesive plates, sheets, film, foil and strips, worth £10.13m to the UK as well as biscuits and cashmere sweaters.
The total value of all EU exports hit by the sanctions is e492m (£344m).
Industrial storage batteries are mostly used as back-up power supplies.