By Maytaal Angel
LONDON (Reuters) - European steel lobby Eurofer plans to file anti-dumping cases this year with the European Commission against exports of cold rolled stainless sheet from China and Taiwan and of electrical steel sheet from Russia.
If the Commission, the European Union's executive, takes up the cases, they will join a series of damaging trade disputes over recent years between the 28-nation EU and China, as well as some with Russia.
"We have two cases in an advanced stage where we suspect dumping and subsidies. One concerns Russia, the other concerns China and Taiwan. They will be filed this year," Eurofer director general Gordon Moffat told Reuters.
The China Iron and Steel Association was not available to comment when contacted by Reuters, while the European Commission declined to comment. China Steel Corp. <2002.TW>, Taiwan's biggest steelmaker, said it was unaware of the planned action and had no comment.
Russia's vice minister of industry and trade, Viktor Yevtukhov, said Moscow would stand behind its steel producers.
"(We) emphasised the need to abandon protectionist policies during the meetings with European colleagues. Taking into account the discriminatory approaches the Europeans use in their anti dumping investigations, both Russian business and the state doubt the fairness of such probes," Yevtukhov said.
The cold rolled stainless market in western Europe is estimated at about 4.6 million tonnes or 11 billion euros (9 billion pounds) annually, according to steel consultancy MEPS. The European market for electrical steel sheet is much smaller by comparison.
The EU currently has duties on a number of steel products from China, including steel bolts and screws - ranging between 22.9 percent and 74.1 percent and which China says have not been calculated in accordance with rules laid down by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The bloc has also deemed some Russian producers of fertilisers, ferro-alloys, pipelines, other steel products and aluminium foil to be in breach of its anti-dumping policies as they have access to cheap energy in Russia's domestic market.
Russia says the duties have cost the companies involved many millions of dollars a year, and has warned it may take the EU to the WTO over its rules relating to the advantage of cheap energy.
Producing steel profitably in the EU has become difficult given shrinking demand - down some 27 percent since 2008 - plus higher energy and labour costs compared with Asian competitors, and structural overcapacity of around 30 million-40 million tonnes.
China, by far the world's largest steel producer, continues to churn out steel at a record rates as authorities prop up state-owned plants to keep employment high and avoid social unrest.
(Additional reporting by Andrey Kuzmin and Svetlana Burmistrova in Moscow, David Stanway in Beijing, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Faith Hung in Taipei; Editing by Anthony Barker)