The European Commission launched a new anti-dumping probe into imports of steel from China on Thursday, broadening the scope of what could become a fresh trade dispute with the Asian export powerhouse.
The European Union executive said in the bloc's Official Journal it was investigating imports of steel wire rod from China, as well as from Moldova and Turkey, after a complaint from European manufacturers that they were being unfairly hurt by the competition.
Wire rod is used by the construction industry.
Brussels has already launched probes into stainless steel and hot-dipped steel products from China and other countries.
European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has expressed frustration at China's fast-growing trade surplus with the EU and says Beijing should follow world trade rules.
Chinese steel exports to the EU doubled in 2007 to about 10 million tonnes from record levels in 2006, according to estimates from the European steel sector.
China has denied its exports are being dumped, or sold below the price in a home market or below costs.
Some EU industries, such as its engineering firms which buy a lot of steel, are also opposed to the prospect of Chinese steel being hit with punitive EU import tariffs.
When steel in Europe is in short supply, and many manufacturing companies struggling for supplies. it's a bit bloody rich of the Steelmakers to be complaining of unfair competition. There is a much stronger case for looking at imports in manufactured metal goods. The steelmakers are making record profits, their customers are struggling to survive.