Thousands of European steel employees and employers, including those from Tata Steel in the United Kingdom, gathered in Brussels to protest against alleged dumping of steel products by China and demanded that the European Union deny Beijing the market economy status it is seeking.
The European steel industry has blamed cheap imports from China for their woes, as they cut jobs to stay in business. The steel employees some 330,000 people, but industry bodies have said the MES for China also threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs in other sectors such as ceramics, glass, aluminium, non-ferrous metals and solar panels.
The march was organised with the support of the European Steel Association (EUFOFER) and its members under the banner of AEGIS Europe, an alliance of around 30 industrial sectors.
“We have seen a surge of steel imports, a rise of over 100%, from China into the EU over the past three years. Imports are coming into Europe at price levels below the cost of production; this is what is known as dumping,” said Eufofer President Geert Van Poelvoorde, adding that the EU has Trade Defence Instruments (TDI) to respond to this type of behaviour, but these have been incredibly slow to utilise trade tariffs.
Since the global financial crisis, 85,000 jobs have been lost in the European steel industry; in the past six months alone, 7,000 more jobs have gone. Without utilising the TDIs in a timely manner there is a substantial risk that we will see more plant closures and job losses, he said.
The situation will become even more pronounced if China is granted MES as it would essentially give China a licence to dump. A decision to grant China MES is illogical; China is not a market economy and only fulfils one of the five criteria set out by the EU for countries to be deemed as such, Van Poelvoorde said.
China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001 as a developing country economy run largely by the state. It was promised a review within 15 years to gain a status at par with its major trading partners.
Without the market economy status, the WTO’s 162 member countries are much freer to slap anti-dumping measures on cheap Chinese products. The EU currently has 37 trade and legal actions going to ensure steel imports are fair and provide for a level playing field.