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Revealed: Britain ‘blocked’ EU bid to raise China steel tariff that could have protected the industry from cheap imports (but Cameron STILL spends billions on foreign aid while refusing to bail out steel plants to save 40,000 UK jobs)

  • Ministers opposed EU plans to put 66 per cent tariff on cheap steel imports
  • Stayed at nine per cent and China flooded the market with cheap products
  • Ministers accused of putting relations with China above British industry
  • But they argue decision was made to keep price down for consumers 

Britain led efforts to block EU tariffs that might have protected the steel industry in this country from a flood of cheap Chinese imports, it emerged yesterday.

Revealed: Britain ‘blocked’ EU bid to raise China steel tariff that could have protected the industry from cheap imports (but Cameron STILL spends billions on foreign aid and refuses to bail out steel plants to save 40,000 jobs)

George Osborne and David Cameron were accused last night of being more concerned with courting China than the fate of Tata steelworkers.

The claims came as Mr Cameron warned yesterday there was ‘no guarantee’ he could save thousands of steel jobs.

Britain led efforts to block EU tariffs that might have protected the steel industry in this country from a flood of cheap Chinese imports, it emerged yesterday

Ministers opposed EU proposals earlier this year to put a 66 per cent tariff on cheap steel products, saying it would lead to higher prices for UK consumers.

Instead, the tariffs stayed at 9 per cent. Officials are now going back to Brussels to increase the tariffs which the EU did agree upon from 9 to 20 per cent.

Axel Eggert, director general of the European Steel Association, which represents the industry across the continent, told the Financial Times: ‘The UK is the ringleader in a blocking minority of member states that is preventing a European Commission proposal on the modernisation of Europe’s trade defence instruments.

‘When the UK Government says it is willing to do whatever it takes, it must take seriously the need to push through – along with other member states – the reforms to European trade policy that could actually defend the industry from unfair dumping and prevent the job losses.’

The claims came as Mr Cameron warned yesterday there was ‘no guarantee’ he could save thousands of steel jobs

The claims came as Mr Cameron warned yesterday there was ‘no guarantee’ he could save thousands of steel jobs

A French diplomat added: ‘In reality, the UK has been opposing an overhaul of the EU’s anti-dumping system.’ In February, Business Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that punitive tariffs ‘simply do not work’ and would ‘drive up prices’.

Mr Osborne has been instrumental in persuading China to fund the UK’s first nuclear power station for a generation at Hinkley Point. Chinese president Xi Jinping was in Britain last October on a state visit during which he signed the nuclear deal. The Chancellor and other senior ministers have made a number of trips to Beijing.

Critics say Mr Osborne’s eagerness to do a deal with the Chinese had been so all-consuming that the Government is content to see the fall of the steel industry.

Up to 40,000 jobs are at risk following the shock decision by Indian conglomerate Tata to sell its UK assets, including the giant steelworks at Port Talbot in South Wales. On another day of chaos:

■ Mr Cameron held a crisis meeting in Downing Street, but warned there were ‘no guarantees’ that the Port Talbot plant could be saved;

■ He was accused of using the steel crisis to scaremonger over Brexit by claiming the EU would impose punitive steel tariffs on the UK;

■ Channel 4 News reported that Tata had taken on accountants PwC to draw up a restructuring plan which could be a prelude to going into administration.

Mr Osborne, who was in Paris yesterday for a meeting of G20 finance ministers, insisted the Government was ‘on the side of the families affected by this crisis’ and was doing ‘everything possible and practical’ to support the industry.

'I'd like to save the industry chaps. But I just don't know where to find the money'
‘I’d like to save the industry chaps. But I just don’t know where to find the money’


Ministers opposed EU proposals earlier this year to put a 66 per cent tariff on cheap steel products, saying it would lead to higher prices for UK consumers

But Stephen Kinnock, the Labour MP whose constituency includes the threatened Port Talbot plant, told BBC Breakfast the Government’s actions told a different story.

‘Not just over the last few weeks and days, but over the last five years, the Government has been asleep at the wheel and has been more interested in rolling out the red carpet for China, than it has been in standing up for British steelworkers,’ he said.

He wrote in the Guardian that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are ‘Beijing’s chief cheerleaders in Europe’.

HOW AMERICANS USED 266% TARIFFS TO SAVE THEIR INDUSTRY

American authorities have dramatically reduced the amount of cheap Chinese steel being imported to the US by imposing far harsher tariffs than the EU.

China has been exporting at prices below the cost of production, a practice known as dumping, but countries can make legal moves to stop this on the grounds that it drives out competition.

Tariffs are decided on a case-by-case basis and vary depending on the type of steel being imported and the price.

The Americans have been more aggressive than Britain and the EU because of the importance of the steel industry to the country. The bulk of its steel is made domestically, meeting nearly 90 per cent of the demand in the country. The US recently imposed anti-dumping duties of 266 per cent on imports of a certain type of steel from China. In contrast, the EU imposed duties of between 13 and 16 per cent.

The results are stark – in the final three months of last year, China’s steel exports to the US were down 55 per cent on the same period in 2013. For the same periods, exports to the EU increased by 278 per cent.

Britain has actually resisted slapping tougher sanctions on the Chinese because, according to Eurofer, the European Steel Association, it wants to curry favour with the People’s Republic.

‘China wants to offload its massive excess capacity of steel but simultaneously is offering the prospect of wider investment in the EU and UK economies,’ a spokesman said.

Mr Kinnock, who travelled to Mumbai earlier this week to lobby Tata Steel before its board made its decision, said Britain had pushed hard for China to be granted ‘market economy status’, despite 80 per cent of its steel industry being state-owned. This would have meant even lower tariffs.

As the Government scrambled to get a grip on the steel crisis, Mr Cameron held an emergency meeting in Downing Street before flying to Washington for a summit. But only five ministers turned up for the 45-minute meeting, with the Chancellor absent in Paris and Mr Javid flying back from Australia.

They sent their deputies, business minister Anna Soubry and Treasury minister Jim O’Neill. New Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin also attended.

It appeared that little had been agreed, with the Prime Minister insisting the Government was ‘doing everything it can’ to resolve the steel crisis – but nationalisation was not the answer. He defended the way the crisis had been handled, insisting the intervention had stopped an outright closure.

About half of all British steel goes to other EU countries, the Prime Minister said, adding: ‘We need to be in there making sure the markets are open. If we were on the outside, we might well find that it was our steel that was having those tariffs and those taxes put upon it.’

Former Chancellor Ken Clarke warned against a 1930-style tariff war, and suggested the steel industry could be helped by cutting green taxes which push up energy costs.

A Treasury source said the criticisms were ‘just not true’. The source said the issue of overproduction has been raised ‘consistently’ with the Chinese by the Prime Minister and other ministers. Britain had pushed for action at an EU level on tariffs. In addition, the steel industry has been helped, with energy bills being cut by a third.

Last night, The Guardian reported that ‘senior Whitehall officials’ have contacted Liberty House, the metals group which is in the process of buying steelworks in Scotland, to ask if it is interested in buying Tata’s British assets. The company has an annual turnover close to £5billion.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3518278/UK-blocked-EU-bid-raise-China-steel-tariff-protected-industry-cheap-imports.html

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