Thousands March in Brussels to Oppose China Dumping and Market Status

Written by Sandy Williams

Steel workers and chief executives from 17 European member states took to the streets in Brussels on Monday to protest the dumping of steel products and granting of market economy status to China. Market status would only worsen the European steel crisis, claimed protestors, and cost tens of thousands of jobs.

EUROFER, the European Steel Association, says steel imports from China to Europe have increased more than 100 percent in the past three years and are coming in at price levels below cost of production, in other words, at dumping prices.

EU Trade Defense Instruments (TDI) have been slow to utilize badly needed trade tariffs says EUROFER. Protestors at the march fear recognizing China as a market economy would make it even more difficult to impose tariffs on Chinese steel products.

Currently the EU has 37 trade defense instruments (TDI) active on imported steel products, 16 of which are directly concerned with China. EUROFER says it is not enough.

In a speech prior to the march, EUROFER president Geert Van Poelvoorde said, “Since the 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 utilizing the TDIs available to us in a timely manner there is a substantial risk that we will see more plant closures and job losses.

“The situation will become even more pronounced if China is granted MES as it would essentially give China a license to dump. A decision to grant China MES is illogical; China is not a market economy and only fulfills one of the five criteria set out by the EU for countries to be deemed as such.”

Poelvoorde went on to add, ““Steel is a global industry; European steelmakers need appropriate policy support in order to ensure competition takes place in a fair manner, on a level playing field. We urgently need four concrete actions from the EU Commission, namely:

  • the process of implementing TDIs to be urgently reviewed, and the time taken from initiating cases to introducing measures to be significantly reduced; 
  • a commitment from the Commission to modernize TDIs in order to make them fit for purpose in today’s market; 
  • for China not to be granted MES when it is clear that China does not meet the EU’s market economy criteria; 
  • for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to be amended so it does not place European steelmakers at a competitive disadvantage to global peers.”

Milan Nitzschke, a spokesman for AEGIS Europe, a group of some 30 European industries that organized the march, said “We are marching on Brussels today by the thousands to give a clear message to EU policy-makers ‘Say yes to jobs and fair trade; and say no to [market economy status] for China. Granting China [market economy status] is giving it an unlimited license to dump.”

Karl Koehler, CEO of Tata Steel European Operations, marched with around 500 workers from Tata’s UK plants.

“Together with our peers in the steel industry, we told European leaders loud and clear to stop the tide of unfairly-traded material that threatens our jobs, our industry and our future,” said Koehler.

“The European steel industry is in a fierce fight for its future. Huge global overcapacity and unfair trade practices – mainly by China and Russia – have pushed steel prices to historically low levels. The dumping of steel below its cost of production will continue as long as our regional, national and European leaders fail to introduce trade defense protections quickly and effectively. Measures so far have been slow and half-hearted.”

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