Cameron, Xi address steel crisis after UK job cuts

21st October 2015, Comments 0 comments

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday responded to accusations that China has pushed down global steel prices during a visit to London that has coincided with a wave of job cuts in the sector in Britain.

"The world is facing an overcapacity of iron and steel, not just the UK, this is because of the impact of the global financial crisis," Xi said at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking through a translator.

"China has taken a series of steps to reduce the capacity. We have reduced more than 700 million tonnes of production capacity and you can just imagine our task to find jobs for those workers."

British Prime Minister David Cameron faced pressure from the opposition Labour Party and trade unions to do more to help the ailing industry, a day after one leading company, Tata Steel, put the blame on "a flood of cheap imports particularly from China".

Shortly after facing a string of questions on the issue in the House of Commons, Cameron raised the issue during two hours of talks with Xi at Downing Street, telling reporters afterwards that the two leaders had discussed the issue of "global over-supply".

Cameron's spokeswoman said he had "made clear there were challenges" but would not say whether he had used the phrase "dumping" during the discussion.

The British job losses have been blamed by experts on a range of factors including cheap Chinese imports but also high energy costs in Britain.

On Tuesday, the first day of Xi's visit, Tata Steel announced plans to cut 1,200 jobs in Britain.

This followed the recent loss of 2,200 jobs when the owners of the SSI steelworks in northeast England went into liquidation, while another firm, Caparo, went into administration Tuesday.

Earlier, Cameron faced questions in parliament from opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn -- who said the government's "non-intervention" in the industry had been "devastating".

Cameron insisted Britain had been pursuing "proper action against dumping" through the European Union and outlined a four-step plan to try and help the industry.

But when one MP from a steel-producing area asked him to make clear to the Chinese president the need to stop steel dumping, Cameron said: "I don't want to make promises I can't keep. We can't set the steel price here".

This prompted jeers from the opposition.

China's economy is slowing down and this week recorded its slowest growth for six years for third quarter gross domestic product.

The country has a huge surplus of steel and the chairman of industry giant Baosteel Group said Wednesday production could eventually shrink 20 percent, according to Bloomberg News.

© 2015 AFP

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