SPECIAL REPORT

Summit on steel crisis

QIAN'AN (Hebei province) • Ministers from around the world were scheduled to hold an emergency steel summit in Brussels yesterday to discuss the global oversupply and falling prices.

China, a participant, was expected to come under fire from major steel-producing countries such as Britain and Germany, which have accused Beijing of dumping its steel products overseas .

Accusations of China dumping its steel products have reverberated in these countries, which are affected not just by cheaper Chinese steel but also weak global demand that together have cut profits of their steel mills and threaten to put them out of business.

A key criticism of China is that it supports its steel industry with unfair subsidies, making its products cheaper than its competitors'.

Last month, India's Tata Steel said it would pull out of Britain, putting 15,000 jobs at risk. It said it could no longer endure mounting losses caused by rising imports to Europe from nations like China, high manufacturing costs and domestic market weakness.

  • 15k

    Number of jobs at risk should India's Tata Steel pull out of the UK

    70%

    Fall in export price of steel since July 2008

In Brussels, thousands protested in February against Chinese dumping of steel, asking the European Union (EU) to stand up to China and halt the dumping of subsidised goods on European markets. Representatives of the steel industry said the European Commission "massively underestimates" the impact of Chinese dumping on jobs, growth and investment in Europe.

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of steel. Of its crude steel output of 803 million tonnes - half of the world's total last year - 112 million tonnes was exported, according to a Financial Times report.

But as growth in the world's No. 2 economy weakens, its domestic demand for steel has fallen, dragging global steel prices to a 10-year low. It is also exporting more of its steel, with its March export of steel 30 per cent higher than a year ago, its data shows.

Hot-rolled coil exported from China slumped as low as US$260 (S$352) a tonne last December, from a record US$1,120 in June 2008, according to Beijing Antaike Information Development.

Prices for the coil, used in things from refrigerators to car bodies, have since recovered amid a broad rebound in the commodities markets, to US$360 on April 1.

Esther Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'Summit on steel crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe