Ailing steel producers hunt for solutions at OECD conference

Officials from the world's top steel-producing countries were meeting in Brussels on Monday, amid efforts to keep their industry from buckling under the pressure of global overproduction.

Representatives from 34 countries, responsible for 93 per cent of the world's steel production, were expected to hold talks behind closed doors at a symposium organized by Belgium and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The overcapacity in their sector exceeded 700 million metric tons last year, as demand for steel dropped, according to the OECD.

The Paris-based organization said the talks in the Belgian capital would focus on "promoting structural adjustment in the steel industry and reducing excess capacity by removing distortionary government policies and through industry restructuring."

"An important long-term goal is to improve the economic viability of the global steel industry and help reduce trade frictions amongst trading partners," it added.

China was expected to be among those attending the symposium. The Asian giant has been accused of contributing to the problems in the steel sector with unfairly cheap exports.

The European Union has launched a number of anti-dumping procedures against Beijing to protect its industry. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned last week that "we will take other measures if necessary."

"The overcapacity mainly results from unfair competition. This is where we have to find solutions," Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters said in a statement ahead of the OECD conference.

But EU officials have also warned that retaliatory trade action alone will not help solve the steel industry's problems.

The EU is the second-largest steel producer in the world, generating more than 177 million tons every year and employing 360,000 people. The steel sector also plays an important role as a supplier to other industries, such as the automobile sector.

"I want to emphatically plead for us to take the problems of the European steel industry seriously," Juncker last week told the European Parliament. "The steel industry is not just any industry ... These jobs have to be preserved in Europe. This is our urgent duty."

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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