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Trade

Chinese anti-dumping probe targets stainless steel imports from Indonesia, EU, Japan and Korea

State-owned mills blame cheap imports for falling prices after two-thirds of China’s 2017 stainless imports came from Indonesia, up from 5 per cent in 2016

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 2:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 10:18pm

China has launched an anti-dumping probe into stainless steel imports worth US$1.3 billion, including from a privately owned Chinese mill with operations offshore, after complaints that a flood of product has damaged the local industry.

The Commerce Ministry said on Monday that the investigation would target imports of stainless steel billet and hot-rolled stainless steel sheet and plate from the European Union, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, which nearly tripled last year.

The move follows a complaint by Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel, with backing from four other state-owned mills including Baosteel’s stainless steel division, which blamed cheap imports on falling prices, the ministry said.

China makes and consumes around half of the world’s stainless steel, which is used to protect against corrosion in buildings, transport and packaging.

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Although the complaint targets eight foreign producers, it also lists a number of Chinese companies, including the Indonesian unit of one of the world’s top producers, Tsingshan Stainless Steel, and 19 traders that import products.

Some private Chinese companies have opened or started to build plants in Indonesia in recent years, drawing on its plentiful nickel resources and lower cost of production. A significant portion of the new production has been sold in China, analysts say.

The rapid increase in imports damaged the Chinese market, according to the complaint filed by Shanxi Taigang and released with the commerce ministry document.

Almost two-thirds of China’s stainless imports came from Indonesia last year, up from 5 per cent in 2016 and zero in 2015, the complaint said. That rose to as high as 86 per cent in the first quarter, it said.

Import prices of the stainless steel products fell 23 per cent to US$1,867 a tonne in 2017 from US$2,436 a year earlier.

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“If we allow these products to continue to enter the Chinese market with low prices and take more market share, sales of China’s domestic products will continue to decrease,” the complaint said.

Peter Peng, senior consultant at CRU in Beijing, said the investigation was “totally driven by an industrial dispute between SOEs (state-owned enterprises) and the fast-growing private mills”.

“Due to their cheap production costs, it’s more competitive than Chinese products,” he said.

Tsingshan opened a mill there last year with annual capacity of 3 million tonnes, while Delong Holdings plans to start production there next year.

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Anti-dumping duties would force mills to find new markets for their product, adding to a global glut, Peng said.

The European companies targeted by the probe include Spain’s Acerinox, Finland’s Outokumpu Oyj and Luxembourg-based Aperam.

Among the Japanese companies are Nisshin Steel, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and JFE Steel. Indonesia’s PT Jindal Stainless and South Korean steelmaker Posco are also listed.

China imported 703,000 tonnes of those products in 2017, up almost 200 per cent from a year earlier, with 98 per cent coming from the regions targeted by the investigation.

Shanxi Taigang accounts for 25 to 35 per cent of China’s stainless production.