BRUSSELS, Nov 9 (Reuters) – European Union ministers failed to agree on Monday on urgent measures that steelmakers are demanding to stem a flood of cheap imports from China after the loss of some 5,000 jobs in the sector in Europe in the past three months.
Economy and industry ministers had gathered in Brussels at the request of Sajid Javid, business minister for Britain, where the majority of jobs have been lost.
Luxembourg economy minister Etienne Schneider, whose country holds the six-month rotating presidency of the bloc, told a news conference that they agreed on the gravity of the situation and the need to take concrete actions. Luxembourg has called for a conference later this year to consider a response.
EU steel executives want the European Commission to cut the time it takes to impose duties and restore a system of monitoring steel import volumes and prices, making trade cases easier to mount and possibly acting as a deterrent in itself.
They said the surge of cheap Chinese steel imports during the third quarter was unprecedented, with prices “falling like a rock” amid clear evidence of dumping.
Chinese flat steel export prices have dropped 40 percent this year, according to EU steel body Eurofer.
The economic slowdown in China, the world’s largest steel producer and consumer, has reduced domestic demand, meaning its steel exports are set to exceed 100 million tonnes this year, from 93.8 million tonnes last year.
“China’s steel market is loss-making, so how can prices fall? These losses must be covered by subsidies or other measures,” Tata Steel Europe head, Karl-Ulrich Koehler, said.
Robrecht Himpe, Eurofer president and chief technology officer of ArcelorMittal, said the EU took more than a year to put duties in place, rendering them obsolete in such a fast-moving market.
ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, last week cut its outlook due to Chinese exports hitting prices.
Eurofer has said that EU demand for steel could grow by 1.5 percent this year, but that third country suppliers rather than domestic producers would be the main beneficiaries.
British steelworkers union Community said the ministers had failed to grasp the urgency of the situation, with the promise of another conference only delaying action.
(By Philip Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Louise Ireland)