Foreign imports hit residents in steel city
By DICK CHAN
THE life of the residents in the steel production city of Anshan in Liaoning was disrupted because the city's steel plant was forced to suspend its production after it lost the market to foreign imports.
The official China News Service (CNS) said yesterday that cheap foreign imports had not only out-competed domestic goods, they also affected the daily life of the people.
It said since the local residents relied on the Anshan Iron and Steel Plant for the supply of gas, they had difficulty cooking their lunches when the plant had to shut down its furnaces after the market was saturated with imported steel products.
The Anshan plant is one of the biggest iron and steel facilities in China.
The CNS said the State Council was alarmed by such incidents and specifically issued an order to restrict the imports of steel from overseas.
It quoted authoritative sources as saying that the Government would clamp down on foreign imports this year to protect the local industry.
It blamed the present chaotic situation on the rise of 'regionalism' among local governments which did not follow Beijing's policy on foreign trade.
According to officials from the Ministry of the Metallurgical Industry, 70 per cent of the imported steel products last year were unnecessary because the local supplies had been larger than demands.
Most of this steel was imported through barter trade, gifts or smuggling.
They stressed that it was important to overcome the regional protectionism and seriously enforce the State Council's circular to correct 'the unhealthy phenomenon' in the country.
The circular stipulated that rolled steel imported by foreign-funded firms for their own use and for manufacturing products which may be exported cannot be resold on the open market.
In 1994, China imported at least 21 million tonnes of steel, even though the Government's target was only 12 million tonnes.
The report said the importation of steel could not exceed 10 million tonnes this year.
But it also pointed out the importance of enhancing the flexibility and efficiency of local enterprises to strengthen their viability in international competition.