London: Prime Minister David Cameron has defended UK's decision to reject higher EU tariffs on Chinese steel even as the Business Secretary faced angry Tata Steel workers whose livelihoods have been undermined by cut-price imports at Britain's biggest steel plant in Port Talbot.
According to the Guardian, Cameron, on a visit to Washington, said the UK was right to block plans that he argued would "rewrite not simply the tariff rules on steel, but the entire tariff infrastructure of the EU," while Labour accused the government of failing to protect British workers from China's "highly aggressive approach in this economic battle."
Yesterday, China raised tensions by imposing a 46 percent import duty on a type of steel made by Tata in Wales.
China "dumping" cheap steel on overseas markets is being partly blamed for the problems facing the UK steel industry, which has put 40,000 jobs at risk as Tata Steel plans to sell its entire UK business.
Downing Street sources said Cameron had confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit in Washington DC to express his concerns on Thursday night, the report said.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid returned from an official trip to Australia to face a tense scene in Port Talbot, south Wales, where thousands of steelworkers face losing their jobs.
Arriving three days after the crisis first broke, Javid said it was the government's interventions that had stopped Tata from closing down the Port Talbot site overnight, and urged the Indian giant to get on with selling the business.
He left to shouts of "save our steel, save our steel" from workers.
Earlier, Javid said he expected there to be formal expressions of interest once the sale process officially launched and described steel as "absolutely vital to the future of the UK industrial sector."
He insisted the government had led calls in Europe for higher tariffs on Chinese steel. He has been criticised for blocking EU's attempts to raise tariffs against Chinese steel and for heading to Australia when Tata was to decide the future of its UK operations.
One Port Talbot worker also handed Javid a 'Save Our Steel' badge.
Javid called on Tata to be responsible and allow enough time for buyers to be found.
Tata Steel, one of the flagship firm of the over USD 100 billion Indian conglomerate Tata Group, earlier this week disclosed plans to sell its entire UK business.
The move has threatened over thousands of jobs amid a deepening crisis in the UK's once-storied sector that the Indian conglomerate had entered nearly a decade ago with a USD 14-billion takeover with much fanfare.