Britain urges China’s help in tackling steel crisis as Tata puts up plants for sale

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 April, 2016, 10:18pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 April, 2016, 10:18pm

Faced with the spectre of thousands of job losses and factory closures, Britain is urging China’s cooperation in tackling the over-capacity in the steel industry.

Prime Minister David Cameron wants Britain and China to work together on the problem and that the G20 could be a good forum to address it later in the year, his spokesman said at the weekend.

Cameron, who spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, is trying to salvage Britain’s steel industry after Tata Steel put its British plants up for sale, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The government has said it is working to broker a deal with potential buyers after Tata Steel sought to end its almost decade-long venture in Britain, which employs 15,000 people but has been hit by high costs and Chinese competition. Cameron has said there is no guarantee of a buyer for Britain’s biggest steel producer and a state takeover was not the answer.

Steelmakers in Britain pay some of the highest energy costs and green taxes in the world, but the government says the fundamental problem facing the industry is the collapse in the price of steel, caused by overcapacity in China.

Britain imported 826,000 tonnes of Chinese steel in 2015, up from 361,000 two years earlier, according to the International Steel Statistic bureau.

China said on Friday it would impose import tariffs of up to 46 per cent on some steel, including a type of hi-tech steel imported from Japan, South Korea and the European Union.

As part of plans to find a long-term solution to the crisis, Britain on Sunday said UK steel producers must be considered for infrastructure and other government contracts involving steel supplies.