Europe's steel industry has been hard hit by the financial and economic crisis and the austerity policies adopted as a result. It has also suffered harshly from the massive influx of unfairly traded steel products, mainly from China. As result, plants have been downsized and tens of thousands of jobs lost. Andrés Barceló, rapporteur (EESC Employers' Group) of the EESC opinion Steel: Preserving sustainable jobs and growth in Europe adopted last July said that "Europe has to fight to keep European domestic production and safeguard a European industrial base. Without safeguarding the core elements of production in Europe, the European manufacturing industry will be at the mercy of the markets and speculation and unable to map out a sustainable future in terms of investment and growth."
The EESC also came out against granting MES to China in its July opinion, as long as it does not comply with the five EU criteria - with the EESC highlighting its concerns about the outsourcing of jobs, importing pollution and the undermining of Europe's steel industry.
Enrico Gibellieri (CCMI Workers' Delegate), co-rapporteur of the EESC opinion, called for EU governments and the European Commission to demonstrate their support for European steel workers; "European steel workers have shown that they can be amongst the most competitive in the world. It can't be that we allow "dumping" measures on global markets to undermine the very survival of the steel industry and jeopardise the tens of thousands of jobs at stake across Europe. Mr. Gibellieri also championed the re-establishment of the High-Level Group on Steel: "The steel industry is the basis of Europe's industry. It needs our full attention and should not be diluted in a body with other energy-intensive industries".
In its July opinion the EESC proposed the following measures:
The EESC urged the Commission to address the unfair trade practices of exporting countries, in particular China, through more effective and efficient trade defence instruments, including
- abolishing the "lesser duty rule";
- registering imports prior to the adoption of provisional measures; and
- retroactively applying definitive antidumping and/or countervailing duties three months before the adoption of provisional measures under the Basic Regulation.
To balance the fight against climate change with the need to maintain the competitiveness of Europe's industry, the EESC suggested giving free allowances to the most competitive facilities to encourage others to improve their performance and compensating European industry for any indirect costs resulting from the ETS.
Investment and push for R&D
To stay competitive, Europe's steel industry must remain at the cutting edge of technology. "Boosting investment in European steel industry including modernising plants and equipment, research and development of new and better products and more efficient processes must be a guiding principle", said the rapporteurs.
Circular economy and public procurement
The voluntary sustainability schemes developed by the industry should be taken into account and properly rewarded in public procurement regulations as the best way to promote the sustainability approach across the entire EU market.