Steel industry and unions call for policy action to save jobs

Out-Law News | 09 Nov 2015 | 5:22 pm | 1 min. read

The European Steel Association (ESA) and trade union industriAll have issued a joint statement asking MEPs to create policies to bolster the European steel sector. 

Across Europe, 5,000 jobs have been lost in the past month, with the UK particularly affected, the steel bodies said.

"There is a real and present threat to the 330,000 workers in the steel sector, a head count down 85,000 since 2008," they said.

The statement was issued to coincide with an EU Competitiveness Council meeting this week.

Bart Samyn, deputy secretary general of industriAll said: "Ministers need to understand that job losses are happening now. These layoffs are the direct consequence of the regulatory burden at EU and member state levels, and in particular due to the dumping of Chinese steel on the EU market."

The EU must adapt its trade, climate and energy policies, particularly the EU emission trading scheme, to keep the steel sector competitive. Additional direct or indirect carbon costs penalise EU producers compared to non-EU competitors, the statement said.

Chinese exports have grown to 110 million tonnes this year and doubled over the past two years. "The EU needs to do more to speed up the deployment of its trade defence instruments," it said.

industriAll Europe and EUROFER called on member states to see that granting market economy status to China "when it does not meet the technical criteria to be considered a market economy would be devastating for a number of manufacturing sectors in the EU as the possibility to impose anti-dumping measures on cheap Chinese imports would then largely disappear".

"Once these jobs have disappeared, they are gone forever. We hope that the meeting can help to build a consensus around practical, swiftly implementable policies, including full and proper impact assessment, designed to support innovation, lower energy costs, restrain the regulatory burden and – vitally – to ensure that European steel producers face a level playing field in international trade," Samyn said.

EU and competition law expert Guy Lougher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind said: "There is an established mechanism by which representatives of an industry, like steel producers, can ask the European Commission to investigate suspected below-cost imports of products into the EU. This is the anti-dumping regime and it has been used many times in the past to investigate suspected dumping into the EU of products that are being sold at prices below their costs of production and distribution."

"A particular problem faced by the European steel industry is that EU environmental and other legislation have significantly increased its costs of production, especially when compared to non-EU steel producers with which it is competing on a global basis. Similar competitive pressures will invariably affect other EU-based producers, especially those operating in industries which are subject to intensive environmental regulation," Lougher said.