Steel protesters
Protest outside the European Commission building in BrusselsGetty

Protesters took to the street in Brussels on 15 February as European politicians face a grilling by steelmaker bosses over the troubled industry. European Commission officials, ministers and industry executives are set to work together on a plan to deal with the havoc in the sector.

Steelworkers are appealing to the officials to stop the "dumping" of subsidised Chinese steel, which is imported at a much lower price than Europe-manufactured steel. The Chinese imports are making it much harder for European steelmakers to compete on the market. Tata Steel's Europe boss Karl Koehler promised to join demonstrators in the Belgian capital.

Following the announcement of the meeting, China's commerce ministry said it hopes the Commission "will strictly abide by World Trade Organization rules, show prudence and restraint and use trade remedy tools in accordance with the law".

The European Commission launched three investigations into Chinese steel imports on 12 February, saying it will not accept "unfair competition" in Europe. The steel price has plummeted over the past few years, leading to thousands of job cuts across the UK and Europe.

"We cannot allow unfair competition from artificially cheap imports to threaten our industry," EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said. "I am determined to use all means possible to ensure that our trading partners play by the rules."

A quarter of all UK steelworkers have lost their job in over the past few years, a total of more than 5,000. Tata Steel and SSI UK were among the companies forced to mothball steel plants and cut jobs. Relatively high business costs and falling steel prices make it difficult for steelmakers to make a profit.

Data published by professional services company Begbies Traynor shows UK steel companies have seen their debts increase by 75% in 2015, to £1.5bn (€1.94bn, $2.17bn) across the sector.

The study showed the number of steelmakers suffering significant agony increased by 45% last year. According to Begbies Traynor, the number of businesses in the steel supply chain under financial stress increased by almost a fifth in 2015.