The steel-focused elements of a speech given by the European Commission's president Jean-Claude Juncker has been welcomed by the Brussels-based European Steel Association (EUROFER).

Axel Eggert, director-general of EUROFER, described the speech as 'very positive' in terms of its defending the steel industry against unfair trade. "President Juncker's emphasis on not being 'naive free traders' hits the nail on the head," said Eggert. He argued that free trade is a rules-based game and that it was the duty of the players to play by the rules or face the consequences.

Juncker's State of the Union speech to the European Parliament called upon member states to support the implementation of stronger trade defence measures, comparable to those in the USA.

Commenting on the speech, EUROFER's Eggert said he echoed Juncker's call for member state policy makers to move on Trade Defence Instrument modernisation, bearing in mind the thousands of lost jobs as a direct result of unfair trading practices. However, he added that EUROFER hoped that 'any forthcoming proposal on Market Economy Status for China does not gift disproportionate and unfair access to dumped imports of Chinese steel resulting from the massive overcapacity in that country'.

Unilateral EU measures, said Eggert, jeopardise the competitiveness of the European steel sector, and the European Commission's Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) threatens the very future of the steel industry in Europe.

"The European steel industry supports an ambitious EU climate policy," Eggert said. "We deliver innovative steel products that reduce CO2 emissions in the society, and we are at the forefront of R&D into breakthrough technologies, including through new projects that have been recently initiated."

Eggert argued that the EU ETS proposals as they currently stand are not achievable and would cost the industry up to 34 million Euros between 2021 and 2030. "At least from the level of the most efficient installations, no costs should arise from EU ETS," said Eggert, adding that otherwise the climate target will be met through closures, lost investment opportunities, and steel imports with much higher carbon footprints.

He hoped that the Europen Commission would take into account the cumulative impact of its policies.