Sir Andrew Cook, chairman of Sheffield-based William Cook Holdings, issued a stern warning of a ‘critical safety issue’ arising from the flood of cheap Chinese-made steel in the country’s engineering markets and expressed fears for the survival of Britain’s strategic steel industry if the government does not take effective action to restrict steel imports from China.
In a series of strongly worded remarks, Sir Andrew questioned the quality of Chinese-made steel and the integrity of the country’s business practices which he called actions of a “command economy” that sought to establish a monopoly on the steel industry. .
Calling the situation ‘madness’, Sir Andrew said:’ Chinese steel dumped in the UK at below cost has already brought the domestic industry to its knees.
âWhat our steel industry needs is, frankly, a wholesale ban on made-in-China steel. Not only is this ruining a major strategic industry, but there is also a safety consideration.
âIt’s not just about gutting our economy or replacing skilled manual jobs with ‘noddy jobs’. There is also a critical security issue. I know from personal experience that a Chinese steelworks certificate – the piece of paper attesting to the quality of the batch of steel – cannot be relied on.
âAsk any boat captain about the dangers to ocean navigation, and you will be told that waterlogged cargo containers floating just below the surface are a growing danger. These containers fell from ships in rough seas because, unsurprisingly, substandard Chinese-made steel fasteners broke. We know that steel is Chinese because China, through its dumping practices, has captured 100% of the freight container market. “
Sir Andrew made his remarks at a critical time for the UK steel industry.
The Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate, an independent body of the Department for International Trade, has recommended removing UK steel safeguards. His comments come after Liberty Steel confirmed it would sell its Stocksbridge plant and focus on its green steel business in Rotherham, questioning the future of hundreds of jobs.
Sir Andrew continued: ‘In the UK engineering industry, which is my heart, I have discovered Chinese steel nuts and bolts where the actual steel is significantly weaker than its factory certificate. described. Nuts and bolts hold things together – trains, boats, cars and trucks, even airplanes. If they do break, the results can be catastrophic.
âChina has spent the past two decades building new steel plants to produce much larger quantities of steel than world markets can absorb. As a result, and deliberately, China has lowered the price of steel far below the cost in the West.
“It doesn’t matter for China: its ‘command economy’ is basically willing to sell steel at any price just to earn hard currency and at the same time bankrupt Western steel mills “How can a Western steel company compete with this?” Sell at any price “behavior? Just like with freight containers, the same goes for raw steel. To create a monopoly, start by cutting prices to destroy Western capabilities Sooner or later, a monopoly now established, China will raise the price – and the quality will rise, always be suspect.
Sir Andrew drew attention to Liberty Steel’s current difficulties. He said: âMuch of the British steel industry is already Chinese owned, most of the rest being part of the Liberty Steel empire.
âChina’s determined policy of monopolizing global steel production, completely careless of both cost and quality, is at the root of Liberty’s current difficulties. British steel mills are reasonably efficient.
âWith a level playing field, they can compete profitably around the world. Liberty’s factories don’t need a taxpayer bailout. It risks losing money. If the UK government is serious about helping, it should do two things.
âFirst, to impose a 200 percent tariff backed by quotas on Chinese steel imports, and second, to legislate to require construction projects financed by British taxpayers to use exclusively British-made steel. Look at the EU and you see that Chinese steel imports are anything but. This is one of the reasons why, for example, the ArcelorMittal factories in France, Luxembourg and Poland can remain profitable.
He added, âThe government should ignore calls from the International Steel Trade Association to reduce import restrictions on Chinese steel. This body only represents the distributors, who buy and sell steel. They are not doing things and are not strategic for the UK.
“They love Chinese steel because the less they can buy, the greater their profits. But it is time for national interest to come first. Britain needs a national steel industry: our steel plants can be profitable, and it depends on our government to give them the protection against dumped imports they deserve. â