LONDON: The government looks set to clash with Chinese ministers next week after promising to raise the sensitive issue of steel “dumping” following a new threat to 3,000 jobs in the north east of England.
George Osborne leads a delegation to Beijing which includes the business minister, Anna Soubry, who said on Friday that she would raise the issues that are threatening the survival of the Redcar steel works.
“We help with energy costs and recently voted to protect our steel industry from Chinese dumping. Next week I am in China and I will talk to Chinese officials,” said Soubry.
She was speaking after SSI, the owner of the plant on Teesside said it was going to halt production and mothball some operations amid mounting financial losses.
The company blamed a deteriorating steel market for the suspension of output at the 160-year-old site. It said it hoped to resume production eventually.
The Thai-owned SSI is struggling to pay outstanding debts, leading to speculation about how long it could keep going while employing 2,000 staff and 1,000 contractors. Any closure would be a heavy blow because levels of unemployment are among the highest in Britain.
We are taking this pause in production in order to re-evaluate and assess the situation following the outcome of ongoing discussions with our various stakeholders, including government and suppliers,” said Cornelius Louwrens, SSI’s UK business director. “It is with great regret that we have had to make this announcement and we are deeply aware of the concern it will give to our employees and their families.”
SSI bought Redcar from Tata Steel, which had mothballed the plant. Last month, Tata announced plans to lay off up to 250 workers at Llanwern in Wales.