Image: Alfred T. Palmer Image: Alfred T. Palmer

China has agreed to cut its steel production in what could be a major boost for a British industry in crisis, business secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Speaking after a meeting of 30 countries in Brussels to discuss the steel crisis, Mr Javid said China "absolutely recognised that it is a problem of overcapacity in their country".

No formal agreement was made, with China rejection the idea that it subsidised loss-making steel firms. But the business secretary stressed that China was "committing to do something about it and I think that's a very positive step forward".

The British steel crisis, with Tata Steel selling its UK business, putting thousands of jobs at risk, is widely accepted to have been caused by oversupply in the market - much like the oil industry. That oversupply has largely come from China. China imposes a 43% tariff on steel imports, whereas, by comparison, the UK's tariffs on Chinese steel imports are considerably cheaper.

Mr Javid said: "The discussion today with all these countries coming together is something that we pushed for, and ... China's participation will help make the difference."

But the business secretary's enthusiasm and optimism was not shared by everyone. Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel, said: "We appear to be no closer to finding international action to put in place solutions. This is a global problem which requires a global solution to remove current over-capacity and time is a luxury we don't have."

Roy Rickhuss, leader of the Community union, which has played an active role in talks over the future of Tata Steel's business, said: "Today's meeting seemed to be all about long-term challenges. While these issues do need addressing, what we need is urgent short-term action from governments across Europe and beyond to get us through the current crisis and create a sustainable future for steel."

Meanwhile, Mr Javid said that parties interested in buying Tata's plants have come forward. He said: "It's too early to say much about them at this stage but the important thing is, as we said all along, we will do everything we can to help with that sales process. The steel workers of Britain deserve nothing less."