The Government is today still blocking an EU plan to tackle the flood of cheap Chinese steel into the UK, despite the industry being on the brick of collapse.
The Department for Business confirmed to the Huff Post UK this afternoon it remained opposed to the EU axing the so-called ‘lesser-duty’ rule, which would allow increased tariffs to be placed on Chinese steel.
The measure was first floated in 2013, but as recently as February Business Secretary Sajid Javid was speaking out against such a move.
But today, as Anna Soubry insisted the Government was looking at “all the options” to help steel workers keep their jobs in Port Talbot and beyond, it was confirmed her department would keep blocking the axing of the ‘lesser duty’ rule.
A spokesman for EUROFER, the European Steel Association, expressed shock at the Government’s continued anti-tariff stance.
He said: “We can’t really understand why they can’t do whatever it takes to fix the system. They had the opportunity.
“Scrapping the lesser duty rule is a huge difference.”
Axing the rule would allow the EU to impose higher tariff charges on steel coming into continent as a way of counteracting the aggressive production of countries such as China.
The Far East country is accused of pumping vast amounts of money into its steel industry, and selling the product at such a low price on the global market other countries are unable to compete.
The problem was one of the reasons highlighted by Tata Steel as it announced it would sell its entire UK division – which could lead to the loss of 17,000 jobs.
In February, the Business Secretary spoke out against scrapping the lesser duty rule, claiming it would lead to higher prices for steel consumers in the UK.
His comments came just a week after he signed a letter calling on the EU to “use every means available” to tackle steel dumping from China and Russia.
According to The Guardian, Javid said: “I think when we look at this, a responsible government would look at the impact overall to British industry and British jobs. If duties are applied that are disproportionate, it would have an impact, in Britain and elsewhere, on the consumers of steel as well.”
“There are many British companies ... that would tell you if duties got out of control ... then it would cost them jobs and growth and it would certainly cut their exports.”
Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle today claimed the Government had been “caught asleep at the wheel” and called for a full industrial strategy.
She said: “Crucially we have been calling on the Government to support tougher EU action to ensure a level playing field and prevent the dumping of Chinese steel, specifically to support scrapping the Lesser Duty Rule which prevents higher tariffs being imposed. So far the Government have blocked this, and have shown much more interest in cosying up to China.”
A BIS spokesperson disputed the impact abolishing the lesser duty rule would have on Chinese steel exports into the EU.
They said: “We are pressing the Commission to make full use of its trade defence powers to set higher tariffs – the lesser duty rule does not prevent it from doing so and we should focus on getting the steel sector immediate help instead of more talk about the LDR.
“The UK has been at the forefront of pressing the EU to act against unfair dumping, in fact this government has gone far further than previous governments in voting in favour of tariffs on steel dumping.”