By Josephine Mason and Foo Yun Chee
BEIJING/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - China expressed concerns on Tuesday over what it said was increasing protectionism after European Union regulators imposed new duties on steel imports from the world's biggest producer.
The European Commission is seeking to protect EU steelmakers while avoiding tensions with Beijing, which it sees as a possible ally against protectionism and climate change.
It imposed definitive anti-dumping duties of between 65.1 percent and 73.7 percent on imports of heavy plate non-alloy or other alloy steel from China on Tuesday, confirming provisional tariffs set in October.
This prompted a statement from China's Commerce Ministry calling on Europe to treat Chinese companies "fairly and impartially", adding it was ready to strengthen communication with the EU to tackle issues in the industry.
The companies named in the Commission's ruling included Nanjing Iron & Steel Co Ltd, Minmetals Yingkou Medium Plate Co Ltd, Wuyang Iron and Steel Co Ltd [WYIAS.UL] and Wuyang New Heavy & Wide Steel Plate Co Ltd.
The EU executive said it acted after an investigation found Chinese companies to be heavily dumping their products on the EU market by selling them at well below half of the price on the producers' home market.
"The Commission has responded forcefully and quickly to unfair competition, while at the same time ensuring that the rights of all interested parties have been protected," the Commission said in a statement.
Eurofer, which represents the European steel sector, said the Commission had found clear evidence of dumping.
"Tens of thousands of steel jobs have been lost in Europe over the past few years, and dumping, particularly demonstrably from China, has been one of the causes," it said in a statement.
The EU has strengthened its policy against what it considers unfair competition for its steel industry, and said its new approach had allowed it to decide on trade sanctions more quickly than in the past.
It said on Tuesday it has 41 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures in place, 18 of which are on products from China.
Also on Tuesday, Europe's second highest court backed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties imposed by the EU nearly four years ago on imports of Chinese solar panels.
(Additional reporting and writing by Barbara Lewis in London; Editing by Jason Neely, Greg Mahlich and Alexander Smith)