Following on from the extraordinary session of the EU Council for Competitiveness which took place in Brussels on November 9 with the aim of discussing the crisis in the European steel industry, and at which the Slovak Republic was represented by Trade and Industry Minister Vazil Hudák, this very serious topic will be the focus of attention at the next session of the Foreign Affairs Council on Trade planned for November 27. The agenda for the session includes a discussion on trade relations with China, whose subsidized steel industry exports products to Europe for sale unfairly below the market price, causing serious problems for European producers.
Another point on the agenda will cover the preparations for the 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Conference in Nairobi between December 15-18 this year. Here the focus of protests from the European steelmakers will be the granting to China of market economy status, since their Chinese competitors are able to sell steel cheaply partly because their production operations are subsidized by the government. Supported by the labor unions, the steelmakers demand the urgent introduction in Europe of protective trade measures against unfair imports. Steel is a globally tradable product, so it is indispensable to have the same conditions for all producers worldwide. In the EU the introduction of protective measures takes up to two years on average, which is much too slow a reaction, and such slowness could well lead to the closure of factories and reduction in employment. This is what happened in Britain in October, where 19 per cent of the total workforce in the steelmaking industry was lost in the course of just one month. It is extremely important for Slovak steelmakers as well that protective measures should be implemented within the EU as soon as possible, with the aim of averting a critical and irreversible situation.