UK Steel crisis: Industry in showdown with European ministers as top bosses march in demonstration

Billy Bambrough
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The steel industry has been battling against the dumping of cheap steel from China and Russia (Source: Getty)

The European steel industry and governmental ministers are set for a showdown later today over how best to implement higher tariffs on foreign steel imports.

Industry leaders are demanding that more is done to help Europe's steel sector survive, while European ministers claim removing the so-called lesser duty rule, which seeks to apply the lowest possible tariff on imports, risks damaging other parts of the economy.

Steel bosses and unions are calling for the European Commission to step in to stem the flow of cheap subsidised steel from China.

Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel, said: “Without urgent action on anti-dumping measures and the lifting of the Lesser Duty Rule we will probably see further job losses, not only in the UK but across the whole of Europe.”

City A.M. understands the Brussels conference, officially on the future of energy intensive industries, is in reality an emergency summit on the future of Europe’s steel industry.

The chief of Tata Steel Europe Karl-Ulrich Köhler, and the Celsa group’s chief executive Francisco Rubiralto will take part in a demonstration alongside the summit to highlight the depth of the crisis facing the sector.

Unions and steel chiefs are also calling for China not to be granted much-prized market economy status by the EU, arguing the country is not operating according to internationally accepted trading standards.

If granted it would make it more difficult for tariffs to be levied against the country.

Both the UK and Germany have supportive of Beijing, and Brussels must decide this year whether to support China’s bid.

British business minister Anna Soubry is attending the crisis talks alongside French economic minister Emmanuel Macron.

Soubry said: “We are working with other EU Governments, industry leaders and trade unions to stress to the European Commission the need for swifter investigations into dumping and the tariffs then being set at the right level.”

Meanwhile, new research has shown a 46 per cent increase in UK steel production firms suffering financial distress in past 12 months due to import crisis facing the sector.

British steel production firms now have over £1.5bn of debt on their balance sheets, up 75 per cent compared to the final quarter of 2014, according to the report from Begbies Traynor.

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