Sheffield Steel bosses voice fears for the future over proposed drop in tariffs
They say that not only would it open the floodgates to cheap Chinese steel, decimating domestic producers, it could endanger people’s safety as well.
And that could throw a wrench into Liberty Steel’s plans to sell its Stocksbridge steel plants to pay off debts, putting 760 jobs at risk.
Sheffield business leaders have spoken after the Trade Remedy Investigations Directorate, an independent body of the Department for International Trade, recommended cutting measures to protect British steel from July. Commerce Secretary Liz Truss will have the final decision.
Sir Andrew Cook, boss of Sheffield-based William Cook Holdings, said it was ‘madness’.
He added: “Chinese steel thrown into the UK at below cost has already brought the domestic industry to its knees. What our industry needs is, frankly, a wholesale ban on Chinese made steel. Not only does this ruin a major strategic industry, but there is also a safety consideration. “
Sir Andrew claimed that not only was China cutting prices to destroy Western capabilities, but its products were inferior in quality and Chinese-made nuts and bolts could break.
He added, “The 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 like Chinese steel because the less they can buy, the greater their profits. But it is time for the national interest to come first. Britain needs a national steel industry: our steel plants can be profitable, and it is up to our government to give them the protection against dumped imports that they deserve.
Adam Bradley, director of Corrosion Resistant Materials in Sheffield, said the closure of the Stocksbridge steel plant would leave a huge hole in the supply chain for aerospace and oil and gas.
He added: “Those with stocks may make short-term gains, but there is a shortage on the horizon that will affect British manufacturing which can only be met with European or Chinese steels at this time.
“It would be a great time for Boris Johnson to support a world-class steel maker and bring it under government ownership.
“Brexit was supposed to be the catalyst for the UK to be more self-sufficient. It would be a great first step and save thousands of jobs. “
Tom Turner, group sales manager at Kelpack, a manufacturer of compactors and balers, said there was already a shortage of steel inventory and recent increases in world prices had made manufacturing and costs even more delicate than in the last 18 months.
He added: ‘I can’t help but think that during a global shortage not having production facilities here in the UK is going to be detrimental to UK manufacturing companies like us who are trying to use local suppliers. as far as possible. “
Trade finance specialist Ian Hepworth said the timing of the sale of Liberty’s Stocksbrige site was bad.
He added: “Without tariffs the UK steel industry is arguably unsustainable. The EU and the US have tariffs in place. China would almost certainly raise prices once it controlled supply.
“Stocksbridge and its steel production capabilities should be cherished.”