EU steel workers protest against cheap Chinese imports

BRUSSELS – Steel company managers joined thousands of their employees from across the European Union to protest Monday against the import of cheap Chinese products and to warn the 28-nation bloc not to open the doors further to Beijing.

The European steel industry is accusing China of illegal export subsidies and selling products below production cost, all of which contributes to the crisis in the European steel sector.

With whistles and firecrackers, the workers ringed some of the EU institutions to push their demands to keep Chinese steel at bay. The industry argued that if the EU recognizes China as a market economy, a status that would allow for even more imports, it would cost tens of thousands of jobs.

“Everybody understands that there is a high need to act,” said Geert Van Poelvoorde, president of the Eurofer industry group, which was behind the march.

The EU currently has 37 trade and legal actions going to make sure that steel imports are fair and provide for a level playing field, something which is especially critical in an age of overproduction and dumping into the European markets. If China is given the recognition of a market economy it would become even more difficult to take action against trade which is deemed unfair.

The European steel sector employs some 330,000 people but the industry official say hundreds of thousands of jobs are also at risk in the ceramics, glass, solar panels and other sectors.

The Aegis alliance of major European industries says that three quarters of all EU anti-dumping measures involve China and that the complaints about Beijing are only increasing. A country might sell below production costs to gain market share or to clear out stock.

“Market economy status to China would be a full license to dump whenever and in every sector China wants to do it,” said Aegis spokesman Milan Nitzschke said.