* Century only producer of high-purity military aluminium
* EU ministers discuss new rules to tackle China
* Industry says strong line much be part of Brexit plan
By Barbara Lewis
LONDON, May 3 Representatives of the U.S.
aluminium industry are speaking to EU counterparts and have
written to British Prime Minister Theresa May urging action
against what they says are "massive illegal subsidies" in China
that threaten Western jobs.
Trade lawyers and some governments accuse China of unfairly
subsidising major industries in breach of the rules of the World
Trade Organization (WTO), which it joined in 2001.
Following European and U.S. action to protect their steel
industries from China, the U.S. this year has shifted the focus
It has lodged a complaint with the WTO and launched an
investigation into whether Chinese imports compromise national
"The WTO and U.S. and European leaders must act quickly to
ensure a fair playing field," Michael Bless, CEO of Century
Aluminum Company, told a news conference in London on
China says it supports the work of the WTO.
The aluminium industry, represented by the China Trade
Taskforce, has written to May urging her "to actively engage
with the WTO on this matter and press for action".
"A strong WTO that acts swiftly in situations such as this
will be a vital part of securing Britain's post-Brexit future,"
the letter seen by Reuters said.
The prime minister's office had no immediate comment.
The industry leaders said they were also speaking to
Brussels officials and to the Russian sector, which has floated
the idea of an OPEC-style body for the aluminium industry.
Bless said he could not endorse that, but it was an
"acknowledgement of the severity of the issue".
When China, the biggest aluminium consumer, joined the WTO
it represented just over 10 percent of aluminium production
worldwide, the China Trade Taskforce said.
Now it is the world leader, accounting for more than 50
percent of global output and China's Hongqiao has
overtaken Russia's Rusal as the biggest producer,
while the U.S. and European sectors have shrunk.
Industry body European Aluminium said the number of primary
European aluminium smelters fell by nearly 40 percent between
2002 and 2015.
Trade lawyers say the ascendancy of China's aluminium sector
defies commercial logic as it faces higher bills for energy -
the biggest input cost - than the U.S. and Europe.
"China has no natural advantages other than illegal state
support," Alan Price of Washington law firm Wiley Rein said.
Century Aluminum, which is majority-owned by Glencore
, reported a first-quarter net loss.
Part of the justification for the U.S. investigation into
whether Chinese aluminium is a threat is that Century's smelter
in Kentucky is the only producer of high-purity aluminium
required for U.S. combat aircraft.
In Europe, the main concern is how to maintain smelting
capacity as part of a strong value chain, creating thousands of
indirect jobs, rather than security, European Aluminium said in
EU trade ministers, meeting in Brussels next week, are
expected to discuss new rules on dealing with anti-dumping,
which are likely to have most impact on Chinese imports.
(additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; editing
by Susan Thomas)