Granting China market economy status would ruin key British industries

The European Parliament has voted against China being granted Market Economy Status, though the Tories have backed it

Credit: Georgina Coupe

The decision by the European Parliament this week to oppose granting Market Economic Status (MES) to China is to be welcomed. It follows extensive lobbying by Unite and our sister union in Workers Uniting, the United Steelworkers, along with the TUC and the European TUC.

The decision is a huge blow to granting China MES— which has been supported by the Tories— as part of their strategy to seemingly give everything they can to China in exchange for investment.

A cross party vote, which included Tory MEPs, voted overwhelmingly against the move amid fears that market economic status for China would leave the UK and the rest of the European Union unable to impose anti-dumping tariffs on steel and other products such as ceramics, paper and tyres to defend decent UK jobs and industry.

The EU Commission will be well advised to listen to the MEPs as would the Government in the UK. I heard rumours recently that BIS Secretary Sajid Javid was already getting ‘cold feet’ over the Government’s support for MES recently and other ministers have danced around the subject.

Over the coming months the EU Commission is due to decide whether to grant MES to China. The move has been triggered by the fact provisions written into China’s protocol, when it acceded to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) 15 years ago, kick in on 11 December 2016.

Currently China is not considered a market economy in EU anti-dumping proceedings, meaning the EU uses data from another market economy to calculate anti-dumping duties when it imposes fines on China.

As a number of trade associations such as the British Ceramics Confederation have express total opposition pointing out that China does not even meet the and does not meet the five technical criteria for granting MES.

Granting China market economic status would be the death knell for key industries including steel which are already fighting for survival in the face of the dumping of cheap imports.

It would leave the UK and Europe unable to impose anti-dumping tariffs on cheap Chinese goods including car tyres, ceramics and paper –  and leave workers in the UK competing with both arms tied behind their backs.

If key industries like our steel industry are to have a future in the UK, government must drop its veto to the EU invoking the ‘lesser duty rule’ and allow higher tariffs on Chinese steel.

The Government should listen to the voices of MEPs and Labour who will I am sure echo the decision and once again make it clear that Labour’s policy is to oppose MES – no ifs or buts.

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite responsible for manufacturing

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