China and the West traded blame Monday over the crisis plaguing the global steel sector, as the world's top-producing countries met in Brussels amid efforts to keep their industries from buckling under the pressure of overproduction.

The steel sector is manufacturing more than the global economy can absorb, driving down prices and leading to job cuts. China has been accused of exacerbating the problem with unfairly cheap exports and subsidies that encourage its steel sector to grow despite the lack of demand.

"It's now life or death for many companies," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom warned at Monday's talks, which were convened by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and labelled as a high-level symposium.

China is not a member of the OECD, but attended at the invitation of the host Belgium, assistant minister Zhang Ji said. The meeting featured "very frank" discussions, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters said.

Zhang squarely rejected the criticism aimed at his country, denying that Beijing uses subsidies and criticizing the trade measures implemented by many countries to curb Chinese exports. He also said his country has undertaken difficult measures to cut its overproduction, calling on others to do the same.

Global issues take "collective courage" to face up to and "concerted efforts to address." Blaming each other does not help to resolve problems, he said during the conference, according to the text of his speech.

He later told journalists in Brussels that China only exports 14 per cent of the steel it produces and that the "fundamental reason" behind the steel overcapacity is slow economic growth due to financial crises.

But the United States and the European Union both singled out China's actions as playing a key role in the crisis.

"China's steel capacity has greatly exceeded its domestic demand, with the gap between capacity and demand growing to an estimated 400 million net tons in 2015, which is over three times larger than the total capacity of the US," said that country's deputy trade representative, Robert Holleyman.

"The massive surge in steel imports from China is hitting Europe very hard and the price of steel in Europe has dropped by 40 per cent the last years," Malmstrom noted. "One crucial problem here is of course the involvement of states and support, and not market needs, and this has created incentives to overproduce."

The EU has imposed a range of anti-dumping measures against China. Malmstrom said the EU is "examining a few other Chinese issues as well and we might bring them further later this year."

"We don't mind competition in the EU, but it has to be fair," she added.

The 28-country bloc is the second-largest steel producer in the world, generating more than 177 million tons every year and employing more than 320,000 people.

The steel sector also plays an important role as a supplier to other industries, such as the automobile sector.

"The steel industry is not just any industry," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last week told the European Parliament. "These jobs have to be preserved in Europe. This is our urgent duty."

Monday's OECD meeting was attended by officials from 34 countries, representing 93 per cent of the world's steel production. The talks had, among other things, been meant to "reduce trade frictions among trading partners."

OECD Deputy Secretary General Mari Kiviniemi said it was a "very big step already to discuss these issues," while also acknowledging that "some of the countries would have wanted to take more concrete steps."

"But I want to underline that this is a very complex situation and the solutions are not simple ones," she said.

Another high-level meeting could be held later this year, Kiviniemi added, while also underlining the need for "moving very quickly ... because the crisis is on right now."

"Common solutions are so much better than cut-throat competition between different countries," Peeters said. "There are no winners in trade wars."

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.