Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has just returned from a visit to meet top European Commission heads as part of a campaign to stop the dumping of Chinese steel on European and UK markets – dumping that damages Teesside’s steel industry Central to this was a call to stop Europe and the UK Government giving greater access to markets via a new trade agreement.
“Yesterday (13th January 2016) myself and colleagues from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee met with the EU commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.
“We were there to lobby against China being allowed to gain what is called “Market Economy Status”, (MES) something that would give China greater ability to penetrate European market places. This is already a big problem. European industries say that Beijing’s policies lead Chinese firms to pump out far more goods than China’s domestic market can consume. The result has been a flood of cheap products shipped to Europe, the U.S. and other developed markets. Granting China market-economy treatment would make matters immeasurably worse leaving European manufacturers with few tools to protect themselves.
“This decision is especially important to British manufacturing and Energy using industries such as Steel and chemicals – both crucial to the entire Teesside economy.
“The Vice President confirmed that that decision will be made this autumn after debate between member states and within the European Parliament.
“There is a British dimension here – and it is David Cameron and George Osborne’s position in supporting Chinese Market Economy Status regardless of whether the UK remains in the EU, or leaves?
“Chinese dumping in steel and other products has been down to deliberate over production, often dumped at below cost price, breaking market rules as laid down by transnational institutions like the World Trade Organisation. As recent as December 2015, at the steel OECD meeting, China refused to attend. The assumption being that they wanted to avoid questions about their dumping across the world market.
“The implications of giving China MES status without any qualification, clarification or caveat upon their current production levels-at emission levels that far exceed anything emitted by any EU producing steel site gives serious cause for worry for the British steel industry.
“The British Governments unqualified support for Chinese MES, whether the UK remains within the EU, or leaves, is also deeply worrying to me, and other MP’s representing steel industry communities. It is quite clear that blaming the EU for the current woes within the energy intensive industries sector – as our government does – is simply not credible. It does not stand up.
“We are still waiting on a Government response to the four of the five industrial asks made in October at the emergency steel summit after the SSI collapse. One of these was about the situation facing the steel industry in the UK regarding Chinese dumping.
“Put simply, unless we stop MES for China, or at the very least get concessions out in place prior to MES for China around China’s own emissions and over production, addressing any other policy ask will be irrelevant in the face of the current tsunami of Chinese products flooding the UK market and killing UK jobs and industrial communities like Teesside.”