* European Commission also targets dumped solar components
* Says will use all means to ensure fair trade
* Industry says duties on China too low (Adds reaction, details of industry pressure)
By Barbara Lewis and Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - European Union regulators opened three anti-dumping investigations into Chinese steel products on Friday and imposed new duties on imports, following calls for action from industry that says thousands of jobs are at stake.
Britain, France and Germany are among the countries to have asked the European Commission to help Europe’s steel industry, which is suffering from falling prices and cheap imports from China and Russia.
On Friday, the European Commission announced investigations into whether seamless pipes, heavy plates and hot-rolled flat steel are sold into Europe at unfairly low prices. The EU already has nine ongoing investigations and nearly 40 trade defence measures in place on steel imports.
It also announced provisional anti-dumping duties on cold-rolled flat steel from China and Russia. The duties range from 13.8 percent to 16 percent for the Chinese companies and from 19.8 percent to 26.2 percent for the Russian ones.
“We cannot allow unfair competition from artificially cheap imports to threaten our industry,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement. “I am determined to use all means possible to ensure that our trading partners play by the rules.”
The EU can impose duties on imports if it finds they are sold at below fair market prices and damage European producers.
EU steelmakers pin much of the blame on China, which produces half of the world’s 1.6 billion tonnes of steel, for the bankruptcies and capacity closures that have gathered pace.
European steel association Eurofer said the new duties on cold-rolled flat steel reflect the full dumping margin for Russia, but those for China could be too low to the imports.
“The EU must therefore urgently remove the lesser-duty rule to effectively address the Chinese steel trade distortion as the root cause of the EU steel crises,” Eurofer Director General Axel Eggert said.
Europe has lost 85,000 steel jobs since 2008, more than 20 percent of the workforce, Eurofer says.
Britain’s largest steelmaker Tata Steel said last month it would cut 1,050 British jobs, adding to 4,000 job losses in the British steel industry last October.
Steel workers are expected to march through Brussels on Monday, calling for protection from China, as Commissioners, EU ministers and representatives of industry attend a day of talks on trade and competitiveness.
China’s Ministry of Commerce has said any dumping claims should be put to the World Trade Organization.
In addition, the Commission on Friday announced the extension of duties to prevent imports of dumped and subsidised Chinese solar panel components via Taiwan and Malaysia.
An investigation concluded Chinese-made solar modules and cells were trans-shipped via Taiwan and Malaysia and to prevent the practice continuing, existing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties were being extended to those two countries, just for Chinese solar products.
Industry body Solar PowerEurope said it supported moves to stop companies breaking the law through trans-shipment, but called for duties to be lifted as the rate of solar installations in Europe has slowed. (Additional reporting by Julia Fioretti, Editing by Adrian Croft and David Evans)