Due to an excess of supply in the steel industry, protectionist trade laws are enacted, mainly against developing countries, in the hopes of curtailing over-production while maintaining jobs in the steel sector of the industrialized countries. These protectionist laws (some are under the guise of "voluntary limits") are more favourable to the large, wealthy nations, and hinder the economic development of the smaller, poorer countries.
In 1985, the (then) non-communist world has a capacity to produce 640 million tonnes of steel, while it was estimated that world demand would be only 438 million tons for that year, 441 million tonnes for 1986, and 467 million in 1995. Some USA steel executives estimate that 15% of worldwide capacity needs to be cut in order to balance supply and demand. In 1992, eastern Europe, mainly Czechoslovakia, was selling steel on the European market at prices 20% below the EEC/EU market price.
In 2002, the USA imposed safeguard measures on 10 steel product groupings in the form of additional tariffs up to 30%. Immediately thereafter, the EC, followed by Japan, Korea, China, Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand and Brazil, engaged WTO dispute settlement procedures. In 2003, a WTO panel ruled that each of the US safeguard measures imposed on 10 steel product groupings was in breach of WTO rules.