Articles in Category: Anti-Dumping

This week, most exchange-traded metal prices came down to Earth as the Federal Reserve hinted it may finally increase interest rates. The hardest hit was copper, which hit a two-month London Metal Exchange low. Weaker Chinese imports over the past few months and the bearish calls of some major banks have exacerbated copper’s recent price fall.

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When construction is strong in, China copper imports surge… but with them falling? It doesn’t look like demand in the world’s largest consumer is keeping up. Copper is just one of many metals that would be affected by interest rate increases and more hawkish behavior from the Fed, in general, but unlike other non-ferrous metals whose prices have increased on the LME this year — such as zinc and tin — copper has not shown strong demand and generally falling supply. Copper never was fundamentally strong even when its price jumped in Q2.

Trump Trumpets Trade

Politics met metals this week as Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump became the first candidate for President to promise to label China a currency manipulator and take action at the World Trade Organization accordingly.  He also promised to instruct the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to bring more trade cases against China. You’d think he’d be nicer to the country that used to make his ties.

Let’s Exchange, No Spoofs!

The London Metal Exchange and CME Group made headlines this week as the former cut fees in half this month as an apology for moving its live “ring” (where traders make deals using hand gestures on big red couches) trading to a backup location after structural problems were discovered at its brand new London office. As for CME Group, it cracked down on a rogue trader, suspending him for at least 60 days, for “spoofing.” Spoofing is the practice of setting up electronic trades to create demand only to pull out of them at the last minute.

India Hates Steel Dumping, Too

India joined the U.S. and E.U. this week in placing tariffs on cheap imports of hot-rolled and cold-rolled flat steel. Although six countries saw their imports to the world’s largest democracy tariffed, China was, again, the main dumping culprit.

Aluminum Association: Let’s Make a Deal

Speaking of China, not only does the Aluminum Association — North America’s largest trade association of primary smelters — still want a bilateral trade deal with China to set up rules for imports from the People’s Republic, but it signaled this week that it would pursue tariffs similar to those steel has won against Chinese importers if it can’t get the deal it wants for its producer members.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

The AA may even ask the International Trade Commission to reclassify some imports of “semi-finished” product to make them subject to existing taxes.

The month of August has seen the Indian government slap anti-dumping duties on the import of a variety of steel products from six countries including China, South Korea, Brazil and Indonesia.

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In the first week, the import duty was imposed on hot-rolled steel products, while a few days ago, the duty was enforced on certain cold-rolled flat steel products from different countries to protect the domestic industry from cheap imports.

In the first case, anti-dumping duties $474-557 per metric ton were imposed on hot-rolled flat products of alloy or non-alloy steel from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia, according to a government notification.

Coiledsteel_585

Imports of coiled steel will be heavily tariffed in India, too. Source: iStock.

The duty will be in force for six months until February 7.

Hot-Rolled Duties

An anti-dumping duty of $474 per ton was imposed on import of hot-rolled flat products of alloy or non-alloy steel of a width up to 2,100 millimeter with a width up to 25 mm from Korea and Japan.

According to an Indian Express report Korean firms affected by this were Hyundai Steel Co. and POSCO. Three Japanese companies — JFE Steel Corp., Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp. are also on the list. A similar anti-dumping duty was slapped on imports of similar products from China. Exporters Angang Steel Company Ltd. and Zhangjiagang were among the hardest hit. Imports of the same from Indonesia, Russia and Brazil attracted the $474 per mt duty. Read more

In a speech in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday afternoon, Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump outlined a seven-point plan to bring millions of jobs to the U.S. that involved labeling China a currency manipulator.

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He proposed renegotiating unconfirmed trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and told his audience he would pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In a first, Trump challenged China for “illegal activities” and vowed to label the country he did real estate business with a currency manipulator.

“I am going to instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator,” he said. “Any country that devalues their currency in order to take unfair advantage of the United States — and all of its companies who can’t (then) compete —will face tariffs and to stop the cheating.”

Getting Tough With China

Trump also vowed to instruct the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the World Trade Organization. Read more

U.S. Flat-rolled steel prices have dropped $20-40/ton so far in August, bringing hot-rolled coil down to $580-600/ton ex-works Midwest.

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There are two schools of thought. First, the current dip reflects a typical holiday slowdown and prices will hold or come back in September. In that scenario, buyers need to secure Q4 requirements and will return to ordering in September. On the supply side, mills are taking downtime in October and Q4 for maintenance, there is still some idled capacity (U.S. Steel and AK Steel) while higher-than-expected final HRC duties and tariffs will keep out imports. The steel market will, therefore, tighten and prices will hold at the current high levels.

U.S. HRC, CRC, HDG Imports (000 tons)

Steel_insight_us_hrc_crc_HDG_imports_082316

Source: AISI, Steel-Insight.

Steel-Insight could not disagree more. While we don’t expect freefall just yet, we do expect HRC prices to be back in the high $300s/ton at some point next year. Read more

The Aluminum Association has not given up on the U.S. reaching a binding bilateral deal with China to reduce aluminum overcapacity, but the group is also holding out the option of pursuing anti-dumping or countervailing duty cases if market conditions fail to improve.

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The aluminum industry is gearing up for a Sept. 29 International Trade Commission hearing, which would serve as the first step in any future trade defense cases on aluminum. The industry has taken a less aggressive approach than steel in not more pursuing anti-dumping, countervailing duties or World Trade Organization action against China on aluminum, opting instead to try to reach a bilateral or multilateral deal, Aluminum Association Vice President of Policy Chuck Johnson told World Trade Online.

“The issues of overcapacity really came to a head in the middle of last year,” Johnson said. “Prior to that, we had not been active on this issue. We have not, as an association, pursued antidumping and other trade enforcement remedies for our industry as have steel and other industries that have been facing a more endemic and long-term conditions. … But we are not taking anything off the table.”

This is a shift for the association, which represents original aluminum manufacturers throughout North America.

The ITC hearing will look at Chinese trade practices including trade policies, export duties and industry subsidization. The goal, Johnson said, is to get better documentation on China’s industry than has previously been gathered.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

The ITC is currently collecting information and gathering public comments in preparation for the hearing. The commission is also circulating a questionnaire looking at the competitive conditions affecting the U.S. aluminum industry as a whole.

This week, U.S. Steel got its section 337 investigation against 40 — yes 40 — Chinese steel companies reinstated and we got to see the minutiae of just how the International Trade Commission, administrative law judges and the Commerce Department work together. Or, in this case, don’t work together.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

To tell this tale we must go to a magical place full of bureaucrats called Washington, D.C., where one in every 12 residents, according to the American Bar Association, is a lawyer. The ITC is an independent, bipartisan, quasi-judicial, federal agency that provides trade expertise to both the legislative and executive branches.

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Red tape has beset U.S. Steel’s pursuit of a section 337 investigation against Chinese steel companies. Source: Adobe Stock/retrostar.

The agency also determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries and directs actions against unfair trade practices, such as subsidies, dumping, patent, trademark, and copyright infringement.

What’s an Administrative Law Judge?

The ITC employs ALJs. Five of them, to be exact. These “finders of fact” adjudicate disputes for the six ITC commissioners, who are appointed by the president and confirmed by congress. The ALJs greatly reduce the workload of the commissioners who only deal with the most serious matters that reach their level. At least in theory, that is. Read more

28 Ambassadors to the U.S. have been asked by the chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission to testify or submit comments on global aluminum trade and the U.S. industry as the ITC continues its work on a report on those topics for the House Ways & Means Committee.

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The 28 ambassadors hail from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Iceland, Italy, Korea, Bahrain, Canada, European Union, Germany, India, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mozambique, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Oman, Russia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

An administrative law judge who suspended U.S. Steel Corp.‘s 337 case against 40 Chinese steel companies earlier this year improperly linked the case to the anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations handled by a separate government agency — the Department of Commerce — according to an International Trade Commission opinion.

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The commissioners initially overturned the suspension on Aug. 5, but did not issue their opinion until yesterday.

US Steel’s Anti-Dumping Cases Not Significantly Related

The commissioners, in overturning the suspension of U.S. Steel’s case, determined ITC rules do not allow for the suspension of a 337 investigation simply in order to notify the Commerce Department as required by statute, and that elements of U.S. Steel’s case involving allegations of price fixing and transshipment “are, at most only partially related to anti-dumping and countervailing duties.”

Administrative Law Judge Dee Lord suspended the case on July 6 because Commerce was not notified of the investigation, and because elements involving price fixing and transshipment, at least partially, fell under the scope of Commerce’s antidumping and countervailing duty investigations.

U.S. Steel’s initial petition, filed on April 26, cites allegations of collusion and price fixing, transshipment to evade anti-dumping/countervailing duties, and theft of trade secrets via hacking by Chinese agents.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

U.S. Steel is seeking a general exclusion order to block all Chinese carbon and alloy steel products from the U.S. market, a limited exclusion order blocking imports from 40 listed steel companies and a cease-and-desist order for their alleged illegal practices.

U.S. Steel claimed that a hack similar to one that happened in 2011 to it and other companies was carried out to acquire the recipe and production process of a popular automotive steel alloy, dual-phase 980, that Baosteel and other Chinese companies began offering shortly after the hack,

As a counterbalance to our article this week about proposed tariff changes intended to counter the flow of unwrought metal out of China, China Hongqiao, the world’s largest aluminum producer, is reported in the South China Morning Post rejecting concerns the Chinese aluminum industry has a major overcapacity problem.

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In fact, in the words of Chief Executive Officer Zhang Bo, China’s high demand for aluminum and improving “self-discipline” in production and capacity expansion has already resulted in a much healthier state than some analysts’ believe. As in steel — and several other commodities — China’s position in the global aluminum market cannot be overstated, but unlike steel an export regime is supposed to keep excess production from being exported onto the world market.

China’s Aluminum Demand and Supply

Broadly speaking, up to a couple of years ago that held good. China accounts for some 53% of global demand of 30 million metric tons in the first half of this year and is self sufficient in primary aluminum although it does import bauxite and alumina, intermediate products.

How are Chinese smelters making money? Source: Adobe Stock/Pavel Losevsky

How much excess aluminum is being produced by Chinese Smelters? Source: Adobe Stock/Pavel Losevsky.

Zhang Bo says given that the industry’s (in China) overall plant utilization exceeds 80%, and over 80% of the smelters are profitable, “nobody should have the idea that the industry is in major overcapacity.”

He also noted mainland China’s 8.6% year-on-year first-half aluminum demand growth has far outstripped output growth of just 1% with robust demand from the transportation, electronic and electrical markets this year. To be fair, China Hongqiao figures appear — on the face of it — to support his position. On Friday the group posted a 20.7% year-on-year rise in net profit for the first half to $510 million (3.28 billion CNY) as a 9% fall in selling prices was more than offset by a 25% growth in sales volume the article stated.

Nor is China Hongqiao an exception. The industry’s daily output volume has surged from a low of around 75,000 mt early this year to 90,000 mt now, not far short of last year’s highest levels, ANZ Senior Commodity Strategist Daniel Hynes is quoted as saying.

Earlier promises of smelter closures when prices were around $1,599/mt (10,600 CNY per mt) are now a distant memory, as prices have surged to $1,885.95/mt (12,500 CNY) today gradually idled capacity is being brought back into production. Nearly 200,000 mt of annual capacity having resumed in the second quarter and another 300,000 mt is due to come back in the third quarter, according to the SCMP.

Smelting Capacity Expands

Earlier targets to cut 4.5 million mt of outdated aluminum capacity, even if implemented, will be rapidly replaced by some 3.7 mmt-a-year of new capacity scheduled to come onstream in the second half of this year alone. China Hongqiao expanded its annual aluminum smelting capacity by 29.8% to 5.89 mmt in the 12 months to June 30, and Zhang expects it to reach 6.5 mmt by year-end.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

China Hongqiao will, of course, talk up the market and downplay suggestions of excess production. The company’s share price has done well on a resurgent aluminum price and rising profits, the last thing Zhang Bo wants is talk of overcapacity.

China’s aluminum semis exports have reduced a little this year, suggesting domestic demand is robust and mills do not have such a pressing need to dump metal abroad as they did last year. Still, with such a dominant position in the global aluminum market a sneeze at home could easily result in a cold for smelters in the rest of the world.

At least according to a European Union official familiar with the Union’s steel sector plans, says Reuters.

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The E.U. is certainly ramping up the pressure. This year, alone, the European Commission has 37 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures in place for steel products, 15 of them concerning China, slapping anti-dumping duties on products such as rebar, cold-rolled carbon steel and cold-rolled stainless steel, ranging between 18.4 and 25.3% for imports from China.

Everybody Gets on the Tariff Bandwagon

The E.U. is scheduled to rule on plate and hot-rolled coil from China in November and while rates haven’t been at the same level as the U.S. where up to 520% duties are have been applied, they are estimated by the industry to need to be in the 30-40% range in order to be effective.

Steel mills Molten iron smelting furnace production line

Can China’s zombie steel mills be shut down? Beijing is trying a new tactic. Source: Adobe Stock/ZJK.

Yet despite the unprecedented level of action, carbon steel imports in the year to May rose 21% with China now representing 27% of total E.U. imports, while stainless steel imports rose 17% over the period, E.U. data shows, even though demand remained almost flat. Read more