China hits back at foreign scrutiny on its excess steel capacity

The problem is a global one, requiring international cooperation, says vice-commerce minister

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 March, 2017, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 March, 2017, 9:48pm

China should not be singled out in a fight against excess steel capacity requiring global cooperation, Wang Shouwen, a vice-commerce minister, said yesterday.

“This is a global issue, this is a cyclical issue,” Wang told the China Development Forum in Beijing. China is both the world’s biggest steel producer and consumer, and its steel sector has been under particular scrutiny. Chinese mills have been subject to increasing numbers of anti-dumping moves by international rivals amid accusations that they have been selling at less than cost and forcing foreign competitors out of business.

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At his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump’s choice for top trade negotiator, Robert Light­hizer, said Beijing’s industrial policies had led to “uneconomic” production, particularly in steel and aluminium, and he pledged to force China to cut back excessive capacity with more trade enforcement measures.

Wang said China recognised the severity of overcapacity problems in some industries and had been trying to deal with the issue, while some other countries had been “just talking and watching”.

China was facing growing frictions with its trade partners, he noted, but he shrugged off criticism about the country’s trade practices. Major economies should tackle overcapacity problems in a concerted manner, he said.

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Beijing has announced plans to slash another 50 million tonnes of steel capacity this year, on top of the 65 million tonnes removed last year.

Many of the plants closed last year were already idled, however, and output from the still-open plants actually rose 1.2 per cent to 808.4 million tonnes.

China would continue to open up its economy to foreign investors and promote globalisation, which was facing risks from “populism, conservatism and protectionism”, Wang said.