LONDON (Reuters) – British steelmakers called for business minister Sajid Javid to insist on immediate action against Chinese steel ‘dumping’ when he meets European Union economy and industry ministers in Brussels on Monday.
Britain requested the emergency meeting after nearly 4,000 of its steel jobs were lost or put at risk in October – equivalent to about a fifth of the sector’s workforce – with steelmakers and unions pinning much of the blame on China.
“The U.S. and other countries have already moved to prevent cheap Chinese imports distorting their markets and now the EU must do the same and, do so quickly … if we’re to prevent large scale problems for steelmakers spreading,” said Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel, an industry lobby.
China makes nearly half the world’s 1.6 billion tonnes of steel. It is expected to export a record 100 million tonnes of steel to world markets this year to help address its spare steelmaking capacity – estimated at 300 million tonnes.
The issue made national headlines during Chinese President Xi Jinping state visit to Britain last month, putting the government under pressure.
As a result, it promised last week to start refunding the cost of green taxes which push up energy prices for steel manufacturers as soon as the European Union grants state aid approval.
But Britain’s steel sector says its biggest problem has been a sharp rise in steel imports from China. UK Steel said forecasts show that Chinese ‘dumping’ of rebar steel in the UK is set to account for more than half the UK market of 720,000 tonnes in 2015.
The European Commission opened an investigation into alleged rebar dumping in April. The investigations usually take 15 months, although the Commission can set provisional duties after an initial nine months.
Global steel prices are at the lowest level in over a decade due poor demand growth and structural oversupply. Consultants CRU estimate that some 700 million out of a total 2.3 billion tonnes of global steelmaking capacity is spare.