A trade union and a Labour MP today urged the government to oppose China's bid to become a market economy in the light of the damage it could cause to the UK's steel industry.
The Labour MP for Redcar, Anna Turley, whose constituency has been affected by the job losses in the steel industry, told City A.M. that if China were granted market economy status "it would be the final nail in the coffin for the steel industry".
This comes after her intervention yesterday in parliament, urging the government not to support market economy status for China:
[The Business Minister Anna Soubry] has again refused today to acknowledge the impact that market economy status for China will have — it will destroy the future of British steel making because, in a sense, it will facilitate Chinese dumping. She says she has sorted that and ticked the box, but that is not the case. I urge her to think again about market economy status for China.
Separately, the general secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community Roy Rickhuss, published an open letter to Soubry, saying "senior industry figures have told me that if China does achieve Market Economy Status it will be a catastrophe for our industry and most likely the final nail in the coffin for UK steelmaking".
In the letter he repeated an earlier statement he'd made, saying:
The dumping of cheap Chinese steel is one of the biggest causes of this crisis, yet the UK government remains a cheerleader for China and their bid for ‘market economy status’, which would decimate what’s left of our steel industry. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Soubry, the Business Minister, said today in the House of Commons: "The EU will make the decision on market economy status. Yes, there is a good argument for our wanting China to have it, but we have also made it clear that if a country wants to be part of the game, it has to play by the rules.
"We have already seen a big change in how China operates when it comes to dumping. China has taken action on rebar in a way not seen before, as a direct result of this Government’s work to protect our steel industry."
Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel, blamed falling steel prices in Europe, which have been attributed to the flood of cheap imports from China.
"We need the European Commission to accelerate its response to unfairly traded imports and increase the robustness of its actions," he said.