Steelmakers have pressed the Business Secretary to commit the Government to further reduce energy costs and ensure more UK made steel is used in major projects, when the steel council, chaired by Sajid Javid, met in London recently.
The Business Secretary has backed a proposal by the Council for new research into looking at ways to ensure a long-term future for the industry.
Industry leaders also Mr Javid to boost efforts to stop cheap imports of Chinese steel unfairly flooding the market in Europe by following the tough example set by the US which has imposed high tariffs on steel sold below the cost of production. The industry has asked Mr Javid to review whether trade defences are up to the job of tackling the rapid rise in Chinese exports.
The Council made significant progress, with the Business Secretary agreeing a raft of recommendations, on energy costs, procurement, trade and research on how the sector can flourish in the future.
UK Steel, the trade body representing the sector, said the Government has made important progress, but warned the hard work starts now, to take the action that is needed to ensure the British steel sector not only survives, but has a long-term sustainable future; a future where it can grow, invest and compete fairly in the global marketplace.
Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel said: “We called on the Business Secretary to take further action to ensure a positive future for steelmaking in the UK. We have consistently called on government to ensure that the steel sector in the UK can operate on a level playing field by removing the taxes which make energy costs so high for industry, and by encouraging the use of UK steel in major procurement projects. We still need to see tougher action to address unfair trade.
“I commend the Business Secretary for agreeing to a number of the recommendations that once implemented, have the ability to put us on an equal footing with our EU competitors. This is about holding a magnifying glass to business costs that our competitors don’t face and removing them.
“However, we must be cautious as agreement to tackle sector concerns is the easy part. Now it is for government to work with industry and trade unions to actually turn objectives and recommendations into real and tangible actions that bring new investment into the industry.”
Mr Stace added: “UK steel producers can compete on quality and cost with the best firms from around the world but they cannot do so if energy costs are artificially higher and they face unfair competition from dumped steel.”