Oct 11

European Steel Workers Protest Cheap Chinese Imports

BRUSSELS — Thousands of steel workers marched through Brussels on Monday to demand the European Union maintain its protections against cheap Chinese imports, which industry executives said were destroying jobs and the environment.




Some 5,000 protesters packed the European district of the Belgian capital, where many European Union offices are, and their leaders handed an engraved metal plaque with their demands to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.
The commission is scheduled to propose this year whether to grant China market-economy status, which Beijing says is its right 15 years after joining the World Trade Organization.
Critics say it would give China license to dump products at unfairly low prices in Europe. They also say up to 3.5 million jobs would be at risk. Commission officials put the maximum job loss at 211,000.
Industry executives said surging Chinese imports would undermine global efforts to reduce carbon emissions because much of China’s steel is produced using coal-fired power.
“We export in the long term our jobs and we import our CO2,” said Karl-Ulrich Köhler, chief executive of Tata Steel Europe, Britain’s largest steel maker.
Tata said last month it would cut 1,050 jobs in Britain, adding to some 4,000 steel jobs cut in October.
Mr. Köhler told an audience of industry leaders and European Union officials and ministers that it was impossible to compete with China when Beijing intervened to prop up loss-making plants.
Geert van Poelvoorde, president of the European Union’s steel association, Eurofer, and a senior executive of ArcelorMittal, told reporters that Chinese steel makers produced on average 43 percent more carbon emissions than their European counterparts.
The European Commission is reassessing limits on carbon emissions, and energy-intensive industries are wary about the prospect of stricter rules.
At the same time, China is setting up its own emissions market. Environmental campaigners say the Paris Agreement on climate change reached in December will eventually create a level playing field.
The Commission last week also opened three antidumping investigations into Chinese steel products and imposed new duties for another grade of steel.
The commissioner for industry, Elzbieta Bienkowska, said there were a record number of trade defense measures against Chinese steel in place and that policy makers would impose more if appropriate.
But she said it was up to industry “to be the master of its own destiny by adapting, innovating and modernizing.”
Anna Soubry, the British minister for industry and small business, said the fact the commission organized Monday’s high-level debate was progress toward protecting industry.
“We want there to be a greener, cleaner planet, but we also need to have jobs,” she said.

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