About 5,000 steelworkers from fifteen European countries staged a demonstration in Brussels this Monday, 15 February. There was one central message from the demonstration: “No to Chinese steel dumping!” The participants were mostly union members that had been mobilised by their organisations: 600 demonstrators alone were from Thyssen-Krupp. Steel managers and representatives of the steel industry also participated. EGP Co-chair Reinhard Bütikofer also participated and was greeted with both surprise and enthusiasm.
Bütikofer reported: “Some trade union officials and steel managers that I have been in contact with in the past were obviously surprised to see me joining their demonstration, and one journalist asked me whether there had not been a lot of political battles between the Greens and the steel industry in the past, such as over the European CO2 emissions trading scheme. The truth is there have been conflicts, and there probably are going to be others in the future. But there is no way of denying that Europe needs a strong steel industry, as well as a partner for the sustainable and eco-innovation-oriented economic transformation that Greens pursue. Strong does not mean heavily subsidised in this context. Strong does not imply stubborn opposition to Green innovation. Amidst heavy international competition, the European steel industry will only have a strong future if it focuses its efforts on ambitious innovation, particularly with regard to energy and resource efficiency. Under the circular economy paradigm, such a steel industry could be a valuable pillar of an industrial renaissance for a sustainable Europe. To pursue this option, however, we must make sure that European industry will not fall victim to Chinese dumping exports, which are destroying thousands of European jobs because they’re offered at a price that doesn’t even cover production costs.”
Bütikofer added: “Members of the European Parliament are well aware of the dangers of Chinese dumping. Not only in the steel industry. This is why we are having a very critical debate about granting so-called ‘market economy status’ to China. Ignoring all the technicalities of this term, our core message is that we must not abandon adequate trade defence instruments against Chinese (or any other) dumping! It is, by the way, not just an obligation for the European Commission to see to that. The Commission has tabled proposals for a reform of European trade defence instruments. Unfortunately, Member States have been very reluctant to engage in the necessary conversations, and have blocked progress on this reform so far. It is ridiculous that some of them now turn against Brussels, demand more protection from Brussels and yet deny Brussels the very tools that are needed to provide such protection. I hope Member States wake up before it’s too late.”