The Impact on Industry and Competitiveness
Chapter 5: The European Union Iron and Steel Sector
SECTORAL DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS The European Union iron and steel sector has been influential in the international production and consumption of steel products for over a century, yet the changes that have taken place since the late 1970s in terms of national restructuring and international patterns of demand and product diversification have been the most significant in its history. The principal characteristics of the sector following the most intensive phase of restructuring are its continuing domination by German output, followed by Italy, France and the UK, with a Northern European focus on integrated production and a Southern European shift towards EAF technologies. While European firms were closely tied to national clients until the 1980s, they are now operating in a highly competitive global market and exports as a percentage of EU production have increased from 31.4 percent (1980) to 61.7 percent (1997), although in spite of this increase the region has experienced a declining share of worldwide steel exports (see Table 5.3). In response to the falling apparent consumption per capita of steel in the EU, the regions of rising consumption, particularly Asia, have been targeted for exports, joint ventures and foreign direct investment. The product range has also changed, with a movement towards higher value-added production and a specialization in particular products tailored to client needs, especially for the motor industry. This specialization in steel products can be seen in the rise in non-alloy carbon steel production by only 8 percent (1990-7) whereas higher value alloy steels (45 percent)...
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