Competitiveness of the metals industries

Gist of the opinion

Overall, the opinion agrees with the Commission's analysis of the characteristics of the sector while pointing out that the metals industry is not a homogeneous sector and it is difficult to make generalisations. It underlines that many of the proposals are too general and calls on the Commission to draw up a timetable with a concrete set of measures covering individual sub-sectors as a follow-up to this Communication.

The Committee proposes cooperation with stakeholders to carry out studies on demand, production and technology trends in individual sectors which, building on the experiences of the ECSC, are accompanied by permanent monitoring and social dialogue. The steel industry serves as an example here as regards to collection of data on iron and steel, so the opinion encourages the Commission to continue to collect some key statistics for other areas of the metals industry as well, since it is becoming increasingly apparent that general industry statistics do not provide enough information to be able to conclude that there is a specific need for policy action in the other sub-sectors.

As regards energy policy, the opinion calls for market and price transparency measures to ensure secure supplies on the basis of long-term contracts. Furthermore, the Committee points to the significance of renewable energies and the contribution that industry itself makes to electricity and heat generation.

In respect of environmental policy, it is mainly a question of finding solutions which reconcile climate protection goals with employment, growth and global competitiveness. The opinion calls for a set of measures, namely: priority to be given to international agreements; measures to promote the best and most energy-efficient technologies; consideration to be given to investments already undertaken; the capacity of individual sectors to cut emissions to be taken into account with due consideration for technical standards; and a speedy decision to acknowledge the dangers of carbon leakage.

The opinion supports the Commission's commitment to stepping up innovation, research and development and improving skills, and puts forward, as an example, the ULCOS project (Ultra Low CO2 Steelmaking), part of the Steel Technology Platform (ESTEP).

Overall the opinion shares the Commission's view that there should be close industrial dialogue with third countries on trade policy issues. However, it recalls that trade policy instruments which are consistent with WTO rules and designed to deal with practices that disadvantage or discriminate against the EU metals industry must continue to be available.

As regards social aspects, the opinion points out that the Commission has failed to present industry with any measures or proposals on the social aspects of the metals industry.