Aluminum group calls for EU to go much further on Russian bans

Aluminum smelter. (Reference image by UC Rusal Photo Gallery, Wikimedia Commons).

The EU should go beyond banning aluminum wire, foil, tubes and pipes produced in Russia by sanctioning Russian aluminum metal for a greater impact, industry group European Aluminium said.

European Union members are looking at a proposed 12th package of sanctions, including bans on aluminum wire, tubes and pipes, a small proportion of Russian aluminum imports.

“We regret the fact that the vast majority of Russian aluminum exports to the EU (more than 85% of the total), in particular primary metal, look set to remain outside of the scope of the measures,” European Aluminium said in a letter sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

In the first nine months of 2023, the EU imported almost 500,000 metric tons of Russian aluminum and aluminum products worth 1.26 billion euros ($1.37 billion), Eurostat data shows.

“We would have no specific comment. It is for EU member states in the Council to unanimously adopt sanctions,” an EU spokesperson said in response to a request for comment.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the EU took a cautious approach due to the region’s reliance on Russian supplies of aluminum, a key material for European industry.

“However, 21 months later, circumstances have changed considerably. The European aluminum industry has accelerated its decoupling from Russia,” the industry group said.

Trade Data Monitor says the EU in total imported more than 2.4 million tons or $6.3 billion worth of unalloyed and unwrought primary aluminum between January and September this year of which 11% came from Russia. This compares with 20% in the same period last year and in 2021.

“The scope of the sanctions must be much broader to have a substantial impact. It should include primary aluminum from Russia,” said Pål Kildemo, chief financial officer at Norwegian aluminum producer Hydro.

“We need strict anti-circumvention rules to ensure that sanctions are not circumvented by shipping Russian aluminum to third countries and making it into a product that’s sold to Europe,” Kildemo said.

Russian aluminum is produced by Rusal, which last year accounted for 4 million tons or 6% of global supplies.

In July, European Aluminium sent a letter to its members saying it had discussed the possibility of “actively calling for EU sanctions on Russian aluminum”, but not on Rusal.

(By Pratima Desai; Editing by Jan Harvey and Alexander Smith)


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