Brussels Steel Meet: China Faces Heat over Export Subsidies and Over Capacity


The Brussels meeting of major steel-producing countries failed to arrive at a consensus on tackling the global steel crisis as different participants diverged on overcapacity issue. In the meeting, China faced criticism for excess capacity and alleged subsidy in steel exports.

The meeting was attended by ministers of 30 countries; it was hosted by Belgium and the OECD. Mari Kiviniemi, OECD deputy secretary-general, said there was “very strong willingness” to hold further talks, with more countries willing to take “concrete steps.”

The meeting sought to tackle excess capacity and a structural way to handle it, reports Reuters.

China is the world’s top steel producer and has been ramping up exports.  It had a 30 percent jump in 2016 compared to a year ago. It exported 9.98 million tonnes of steel in March despite the anti-dumping measures.

The US blamed China, saying that Beijing needed to act on overcapacity. The US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and US Trade Representative Michael Froman said: “Unless China starts to take timely and concrete actions to reduce its excess production and capacity in industries including steel … the fundamental structural problems in the industry will remain”.

Refuting all criticism, Beijing’s official news agency Xinhua said blaming China for the steel industry’s problems was a “lame and lazy excuse for protectionism.”

The OECD said global steelmaking capacity was 2.37 billion tonnes in 2015, and production is declining. It  means. only 67.5 percent of that capacity was being used.

Meanwhile, the BBC, quoting UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid said China showed a willingness to reduce the amount of steel it makes.

He said the Asian country has “absolutely recognized” that it is part of the problem of overcapacity. However, China rejected suggestions that it subsidised loss-making steel companies.

Javed said it was the first time all the major steel-producing nations had come together to discuss the issue of excess capacity. Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel said: “We appear to be no closer to finding the international action to put in place solutions.”

Calling it a global problem, he said a global solution is required to remove over-capacity and urged China to take radical action similar to what European steelmakers had taken in the past.

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