UK steel crisis: Companies to ramp up pressure on British government to take action over China and Russia driving commodity prices down

Billy Bambrough
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Steel Prices Surge In China
An emergency conference next week will call on the European Commission to take action against cheap steel flooding the market from China and Russia (Source: Getty)

Steel companies will this week ramp up pressure on the government to come to the industry's defence ahead of an emergency European conference on 15 February.

The conference, called at the behest of the UK and involving executives from Tata Steel and Celsa, will call on the European Commission to take action against cheap steel flooding the market from China and Russia.

The British government has toughened its stance over the last few days with business secretary Sajid Javid co-signing a letter with other steel producing EU states calling for the commission to act.

Anna Soubry, minister for small business, industry and enterprise, is set to deliver a keynote speech at the conference, which takes place a week today. She will urge the commission to address issues and bring in stricter anti-dumping rules.

Trade group UK Steel is in contact with the government and will this week push for more to be done.

Read more: Government accused of doing too little to protect UK steel industry

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills told City A.M.: “This is all part of our ongoing efforts to lobby the commission.”

The government's position has raised eyebrows given its increasingly warm relations with Beijing and efforts to bring the economies of the UK and China closer together. The UK is supportive of China's efforts to win market economy status, which would make it harder for tariffs to be levied against the country.

The director of UK Steel Gareth Stace told City A.M.: “I was surprised when I saw the letter, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“Anna Soubry has the opportunity to do something here, but there won’t be any immediate improvements. It could still get worse before it gets better.”

The debate over support for the UK steel industry has split economists, many of whom argue the government should not prop up the steel sector at the expense of the taxpayer.

Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: "In the absence of being competitive, the industry can no longer be sustained. The silver lining is that consumers across the EU are benefitting from cheaper prices, whilst competition from China means that EU countries are redeploying their resources to other more profitable sectors."

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