Labour MEPs today called on UK steel minister Anna Soubry to work with her European counterparts to agree reforms to the EU's trade defence tools, without further delay, so the EU can take action against the dumping of steel by China that has plunged the industry into crisis.
Ms Soubry was in Brussels at the annual European Steel Day meeting of EU and national politicians and policymakers, at which representatives from across the continent outlined the need to create a level playing field to provide a sustainable future for the industry.
European steel has faced unprecedented crises recently, as it has struggled to cope with excess capacity, notably in China, and the subsequent dumping of steel into the EU market.
The need to reform trade defence instruments, the idea of market economy status for China, reform of the EU emissions trading scheme, and the high energy costs faced by energy-intensive industries were all on the agenda at today's meeting.
During the event, Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, member of the European Parliament international trade committee, called on Ms Soubry to engage with her counterparts to agree reforms to trade defence tools, which the UK government has blocked for two years at European Council meetings of national ministers.
Ms Kirton-Darling said:
"The UK steel sector is today facing an existential crisis - tomorrow this crisis will hit the EU steel industry full throttle too.
"While not a silver bullet, reform of the trade defence instruments is vital to solving this crisis and a key step in creating a level playing for EU steel. The UK government is currently blocking these vital reforms at meetings of European ministers, and has repeatedly refused to change its position.
"Today, I have once again called on UK ministers to do the right thing. They have the opportunity in the EU Trade Council meeting on May 13 - they should use it to agree to these critical reforms."
David Martin MEP, Socialists and Democrats Group spokesperson on international trade, added:
"The modernisation of the EU's trade defence instruments should be a major priority going forward. We must give ourselves the tools to defend ourselves from unfair trade practices, and the UK government must not stand in the way of these reforms.
"This issue is also deeply intertwined with our bilateral trade relationship with China. Although they remain an important economic partner, under the current circumstances it would be suicidal for our steel and other manufacturing sectors to grant the Chinese 'market economy status'.
"We call on the Commission to carefully consider the results of the public consultation and the ongoing impact assessment before making their decision."