The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has warned against granting China market economic status and has called upon European institutions to promote fair international competition and defend European jobs and values with efficient trade defence instruments (TDIs).

Speaking at the EESC’s 514th plenary session on 14 July, Andrés Barceló, rapporteur of the EESC opinion “Market Economy Status for China” said that it was the EU’s responsibility to ensure that the necessary TDIs were in place to provide Europe’s industry with the level playing field it needs.

“Granting unconditional market economy status to China would seriously jeopardise Europe’s industry, kill off jobs and damage SMEs’ local production,” Barceló said.

The EESC was equally concerned about the impact of China being granted MES in terms of innovation and competitiveness.

Gerald Kreuzer, co-rapporteur and member of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) said that the whole industrial value chain would be endangered and that Europe risked losing countless jobs, including highly specialised jobs. “Our competitiveness would be at stake, as only a strong industry is able to invest in research and development,” he argued.

The EESC’s opinion takes into account the effects on jobs and growth, regardless of the legal and political side of granting MES to China, which is still being discussed by the European Commission. A decision is expected after 20 July.

According to both rapporteurs, the EESC’s position is unambiguous, insisting that if China does not meet the EU’s five criteria to qualify as a market economy then it can’t be one.

The EESC believes that granting MES to China would be a serious setback for Europe’s ambitions for sustainable development and the fight against climate change. It believes that only a strong European industry can maintain healthy R&D networks – the basis for European competitiveness and crucial for future growth.

Between 2000 and 2014, European industries lost 6.7 million workers, which is 12% of the initial figure of 56.3 million. Over the same period, the import volume index increased by 144%.

Where the European steel industry is concerned, the EESC wants the High-Level Group on Steel re-established swiftly.

Enrico Gibellieri, co-rapporteur and CCMI delegate argued that the steel industry ‘needs our full attention and should not be diluted in a body with other energy-intensive industries’.

The EESC wants the European Commission to address unfair trade practices, enhance the effectiveness of TDIs and abolish the lesser duty rule.