The European Commission said on Thursday it had opened an investigation into alleged dumping by Chinese producers of a grade of steel used to reinforce concrete principally in Britain and Ireland.
The Commission said it had received a complaint from European steel association Eurofer in March on behalf of producers of high fatigue performance (HFP) steel concrete reinforcement bars.
It is the latest in a series of complaints by the EU steel industry about a surge of cheap Chinese imports, which EU producers says are made possible by state subsidies for Chinese rivals.
Eurofer said that Chinese imports of the product had risen from zero in 2012 to 250,000 tonnes last year, taking a quarter of the market, with prices considerably lower than those of EU producers.
The market for HFP rebar in Britain expanded significantly during the period, but due to the massive rise in Chinese imports, the volume of European produced HFP rebar fell considerably, losing a third of their market share.
The Commission said Eurofer's evidence showed that the volume and prices of the imported product had a negative impact on the overall performance and financial situation of the EU industry.
EU producers include Spain's Celsa Group, Italy's Gruppo Riva SpA and ArcelorMittal.
HFP rebar is reinforcing bars with an ability to endure repeated stress without breaking and is principally used in Britain and Ireland.
The investigation is due to conclude in 15 months, although the Commission can set provisional duties after an initial nine months if it concludes there has been dumping - selling at artificially low prices that may be below cost.
It has already done so in the case of stainless steel cold-rolled flat products from China and Taiwan.
Duties imposed at the end of an investigation are typically in place for five years.