China is on a collision course with the world’s leading powers over excess steel output after it refused to sign up to an emergency global plan to cut capacity and eliminate subsidies.
The clash comes as fresh data confirms fears that China is still cranking up production and even reopening shuttered plants supposedly due for closure, despite the massive glut on the world market. Chinese mills produced a record 70.65m tonnes in March, 51pc of global output and five times as much as the whole EU.
“Just words from China are no longer good enough. It is now clear to everybody that the Chinese have no intention at all of changing the structure of their steel industry,” said Axel Eggert, head of the European steel federation Eurofer.
“They refused even to accept basic principles. They don’t recognise the problem, and they are not looking for a compromise,” he said.
The world’s steel-making powers, led by the US, Japan and the EU, agreed to joint steps to tackle the crisis at special OECD summit in Brussels on Monday, but China’s name was conspicuously absent when the final document was released later.
This renders the plan meaningless since China’s excesses capacity alone is 400m tonnes, greater than the entire production of Europe and North America. Officials were shocked by the tone of the encounter with the Chinese delegation. “It was eye-opening,” said one source.
“The scale of the emergency in the sector means it is now life or death for many companies,” said Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU trade commissioner.