Chinese President Xi Jingping has defended his country’s industrial policies, saying that an overcapacity of steel is a global problem.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street today, Xi said: “The world is facing the overcapacity of iron and steel, not just the UK.”
Blaming the “impact of the international financial crisis” and the “reduction of demand”, Xi said China’s steel industry is “also facing excess capacity and the challenge of how to absorb those capacity” and his government has taken a “series of steps to reduce the capacity”.
He added: “We have reduced more than 700m tonnes of production capacity, and you can just imagine our task of finding jobs for those workers.”
Xi also said that Britain and China “should not just focus on competition”, saying that China’s record levels of investment in the UK would “create even more jobs” for British workers.
Cameron has come under increased pressure in recent days over the future of the UK steel industry, as thousands of steelworkers have been laid off and Britain’s biggest steelmakers have blamed Chinese so-called steel dumping for their financial woes.
But Cameron made no mention of steel dumping in yesterday’s press conference, saying instead: “I totally reject the idea that you either have a conversation about human rights and steel or you have a strong relationship with China. I want both.”
The Prime Minister said he and Xi had “discussed the problem of a global oversupply and China itself has plans to reduce that supply”, adding that the UK government “will take action” on energy costs, taxes and European Union regulation to support the British steel industry.
But earlier today, during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Cameron faced renewed criticism from Labour MPs over the government’s handling of the steel crisis, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asking: “Is it not time to walk the walk rather than talk the talk about an industrial strategy?”
Cameron defended his efforts, before admitting: “We cannot in this house set the world price of steel.”