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German steel workers to stage nationwide protests

Thousands of German steel workers are expected to take part in nationwide demonstrations on Monday to protest what they see as a flood of cheap steel from China and unfair environmental regulations from Brussels.

Western Germany is where steel industry heavyweights like Thyssen-Krupp, ArcelorMittal and HKM employ some 47,600 workers. And it's also where many of those workers will take to the streets on Monday to raise concerns about the future of their sector.

Their contention is that EU tariffs on imported Chinese steel are too low. That steel, they say, is subsidized by Beijing, making it cheaper and thus more difficult to compete with. On Monday, the workers got a show of support from Germany's economy minister and vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel.

He said there was no way around competition in the global steel industry, "but this competition must be fair," Gabriel said in an interview with a regional German paper, the Passauer Neue Presse.

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Steel bits and bytes - an industry reloaded

Last year, German steel producers' output was 41 million tons. That compares to 12 million tons imported from China, an amount that has tripled in the last three years. Last year, the price of steel fell by a quarter, largely driven down by

overcapacity in China.

But Monday's demonstrators, who will gather in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland - major steel hubs - as well as Berlin, also set their sights on planned environmental legislation from Brussels that they feared would impose crippling costs on factory operators.

The president of the German Steel Federation, Hans Jürgen Kerkhoff, said reducing the steel industry's carbon dioxide emissions would cost more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) a year from 2021 on, which he called "a threat to its existence."

cjc/sri (AFP, dpa)

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