22 June 2016, Brussels – Whether at EU level or UK level, the Ceramic Industry is an export champion in need of a strong and proactive trade policy to promote market access while ensuring protection against unfair trade practices. The European Ceramic Industry has experienced on many occasions that such effective trade policy is better achieved at EU rather than at national, and hence UK level.
With the 5th largest ceramic manufacturing base in the EU, the UK represents a significant share of the EU ceramic industry with a turnover of € 2bn out of € 28bn in the EU. The whole range of ceramic applications is well represented in the UK, including ceramic construction products, high tech industrial ceramics and tableware. About 80% of ceramic manufacturing companies in the EU and UK Ceramic Industry are SMEs. The UK industry provides 20.000 direct jobs out of 200.000 in the EU. Total UK employees have increased in the last few years as the UK is starting to pull out of recession.
The poll performed by the British Ceramic Confederation (BCC), the trade association for UK ceramic manufacturers, showed 71% of BCC member companies are of the opinion that it is in their best interest that the UK remains in the EU.
A very important factor behind such clear support for EU membership is the belief that UK ceramic jobs, which depend mainly on trade within and outside the EU, will be better promoted if the UK remains an influential member of the EU. Indeed, “on many occasions, a joint EU trade policy has proven very effective to open and grow markets in third countries” stated Cerame-Unie Director General Renaud Batier. For example, South Korea became the 2nd largest export destination for UK tableware only a few years after the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement was implemented. Similarly, the UK ceramic industry has high expectations in the event an agreement is found on the EU-US TTIP negotiations where the full weight of the EU bloc is needed to ensure a balanced deal.
Most importantly, while the ceramic industry believes in free trade, it also sees the need for effective trade defence instruments in order to tackle unfair trading practices that may illegally jeopardise UK ceramic jobs and investments despite the high competitiveness of this sector. In that respect, the process which led to effective trade defence measures being imposed in 2011 and 2013 by the EU on imports in ceramic tiles and tableware from China has brought ample evidence that trade policy is more effective if coordinated at EU level. Today around 6.000 direct UK ceramic jobs are defended by trade defence measures imposed by the EU against Chinese imports. The number of employees in the UK ceramic tiles and tableware sectors and their supply chains has increased since anti-dumping measures were enforced. With “overcapacities in ceramic tiles in China equivalent to 4 times the size of the EU market, such measures are absolutely vital to sustainable industrial jobs in the UK and in the EU” concludes Cerame-Unie President Alain Delcourt.