Despite commitments and trade friction with several of China’s trading partners, China’s June trade data surged, raising more questions on the validity of China’s commitment to cutting steel production.
China’s Exports Are Up in June
China’s June steel exports up 21% year over year. Source: marketrealist.com.
In June, China exported 10.9 million metric tons of steel, a 21% increase from June 2015 and the second highest total ever. The data raises questions on whether global steel markets will be able to absorb this much steel coming from China without it weighing on prices. Read more
Heavy-walled, rectangular carbon steel pipes are used mainly as structural members in construction. The Commerce Department recently affirmed earlier preliminary anti-dumping duties on pipe imports from Turkey, Mexico and the Republic of Korea.
The U.S. construction market has remained strong this this year with home construction posting strong gains this summer and low-cost imports of structural pipe have certainly helped general contractors’ bottom lines.
Most of the anti-dumping duties for providers in South Korea and Mexico came in at less than 5.5%, but Turkey was the big importing loser with some of its steel companies hit with duties between 36 and 15%, although one Turkish steelmaker was found not to have dumped at all.
Welded, structural carbon steel pipes are a mainstay of construction but new tariffs will increase the price of of imports from Mexico, Turkey and the Republic of Korea. Source: Adobe Stock/Artzenter.
Republic of Korea
Commerce found dumping has occurred by mandatory Korean respondents Dong-A Steel Co. and HiSteel Co. Ltd. at dumping margins of 2.34% and 3.82%, respectively. All other producers/exporters in Korea will incur a final dumping margin of 3.24%. Read more
Yesterday, the U.S. and Vietnam signed an agreement to resolve two longstanding World Trade Organization disputes over imports of Vietnamese shrimp to the U.S. (the official case numbers are DS404 and DS429).
The agreement provides a framework for the settlement of American court litigation, as well as the resolution of outstanding anti-dumping duty claims covering various administrative reviews of a 2005 warmwater shrimp order. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Barbara Weisel, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance Paul Piquado, and Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh signed the agreement yesterday.
A case involving Vietnamese shrimp shows how difficult it can be to quantify value for non-market economy goods. Source: Adobe Stock/Armcreation.
You might ask yourself, what does shrimp have to do with metals? As to how it concerns world trade, this case is important because it addresses the sometimes nebulous question of what exactly is fair in determining the proper prices of exports from non-market economies into market economies like the U.S. You see, Vietnam and China are the only two countries considered by the WTO to be non-market economies.
Market Economy vs. Non-Market Economy
Back in 2005, the U.S. imposed anti-dumping duties on several Vietnamese importers of shrimp. Vietnam asked the WTO to review the duties and, in 2014, a WTO panel found the original anti-dumping order to be inconsistent with WTO rules, including elements of the decision not to remove Vietnamese exporter Minh Phu, a producer that later proved it had not dumped for three years — from the order. In 2015, the panel’s findings were adopted by the WTO dispute settlement body and the U.S. agreed to come into compliance.
The panel faulted “as such” Commerce’s practice in anti-dumping cases of starting with a “rebuttable presumption” that all exporters in non-market economies are government controlled, state-sponsored entities. As we said above, Vietnam and China are the only two countries regarded by the department to be NMEs. As with steel companies in China, some Vietnamese shrimp producers are state-controlled and some are not. The WTO essentially said Commerce must prove that companies it places tariffs on are receiving government support.
A 129 review is the process used to determine how Commerce can make a redetermination that would ensure that its decisions in particular trade remedy cases are in line with the findings of the WTO. In the instance of DS429, the U.S. was faulted by the WTO dispute settlement panel in 2014 for improperly calculating the duties and in May 2015 informed the panel that it planned on coming into compliance with the panel report. The reasonable period of time for the U.S. to conform to the panel report was set to expire on Aug. 22.
Following a request from U.S. Trade Representative, the Department issued a preliminary section 129 determination on May 20, to implement findings of the WTO dispute settlement body. The preliminary decision includes a recalculation of Minh Phu’s dumping rates for 2008/2009 in a manner consistent with the WTO panel’s findings. As a result of the recalculation, Minh Phu’s rate for that period was reduced to zero and Commerce preliminarily found that revocation of the anti-dumping order with respect to Minh Phu was appropriate.
As part of the agreement, Minh Phu and its importers will be required to certify that it is the producer and exporter of any shrimp it exports to the U.S., to ensure that other exporters are not circumventing the anti-dumping order through transshipment.
The lack of a 123 review suggests that Commerce is taking a very narrow approach to implement the as-such ruling on its non-market economy practice by only making changes to these particular cases involving shrimp.
However, Commerce’s final memo on the 129 review does allude to the “as such” challenge. It stops short of pledging to resolve the criticized practice of viewing all producers as state-sponsored beyond these two cases.
The U.S. warned China on Thursday that it had not done enough to qualify for market economy status, especially in steel and aluminum and pushed the two trading partners closer to a full-on trade war between Washington and Beijing at the end of 2016.
U.S. trade diplomat Chris Wilson told the World Trade Organization meeting that the expiration of a clause in China’s original petition to join did not require other WTO members to automatically grant China market economy status on Dec. 11.
Instead, China must establish under each WTO member country’s domestic law that it is a market economy, he said, according to an outline of his remarks seen by Reuters.
“Second, there is little doubt that China’s market reforms have fallen short of the expectations that were held by many members when China joined the WTO,” he said. “This is particularly evident in the steel and aluminum industries where China’s pervasive interventions have led to a significant overcapacity of global supply that is threatening the viability of competitive firms in these industries around the world.”
“Through this bilateral mechanism, the two sides can have … in-depth discussions to find solutions acceptable to both parties and in this way maintain free trade and sustainable development of the global economy,” Wang said.
Wang did not provide details on the planned mechanism.
Thomas Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute testified today before the Senate Banking Committee’s hearing on “Evaluating the Financial Risks of China.”
Gibson highlighted global steel overcapacity, market distortions created by China’s state-controlled steel industry and China’s market economy status, among other issues. The committee is chaired by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and the ranking member is Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), both of whom represent states with a strong steel presence.
“The surge in imports is a result of foreign government interventionist policies that have fueled global overcapacity in steel, more than half of which is located in China,” Gibson said. “This has led to increased imports of dumped and subsidized Chinese steel in the U.S., which have injured the American steel industry. While China is not the only source of the problem, the overcapacity in China is the greatest challenge facing the global steel industry today.”
Gibson said with China’s domestic steel demand declining, the Chinese steel industry has increasingly relied on exports to consume surplus production. Chinese steel exports rose to 112 million metric tons last year, and through May of this year Chinese producers exported 46.3 million metric tons of steel to the world.
China’s Commerce Ministry said on Wednesday the U.S. deliberately misinterpretedWorld Trade Organization rules after the Commerce Department found that Chinese stainless steel sheet and strip was illegally subsidized. Some companies were hit with 193% import duties.
Commerce found in favor of countervailing duties for imports of stainless steel sheet and strip from China and said it had set a preliminary subsidy rate of 57.3% for a Chinese steel manufacturer, Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Co. Ltd. Many, many more were hit with 193% duties, in part because they did not respond to Commerce’s requests for information during the investigation.
Chinese Steel overproduction remains a global issue, even as China complains that other nations unfairly place tariffs on its steel.
China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement it was not satisfied with the decision and that it would use the WTO dispute settlement process to defend its interests. That’s awfully rich, as China continues to overproduce steel — both carbon and stainless — at a rate that dwarfs every other country in the world.
China produced more steel than the rest of the world combined in May. According to the World Steel Association, China produced 70.5 million metric tons of crude steel products in May, up 1.8% from the levels of a year earlier and just shy of the record level hit in March.
The China Iron & Steel Association said March steel production hit 70.65 mmt, a record high, amounting to 834 mmt on an annualized basis. To China’s credit, Beijing is using both its clout and power to finally start an attempt to consolidate China’s massive steel sector, according to the Financial Times. However, that process is going along about as glacially as other changes in the People’s Republic.
Overproduction Leads to Frustration
It should come as no surprise to China that U.S. and other nations’ regulators are fed up with its overproduction. Read more
Commerce calculated a preliminary subsidy rate of 57.30% for mandatory respondent Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Co. Ltd. Mandatory respondents Ningbo Baoxin Stainless Steel Co., Ltd. (and its cross-owned companies Baosteel Stainless Steel Co., Ltd., Baoshan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., Baosteel Desheng Stainless Steel Co., Ltd., Baosteel Co., Ltd., Bayi Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., Ningbo Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., Shaoguan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., Guangdong Shaoguan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., and Zhanjiang Iron & Steel Co., Ltd.) and Daming International Import Export Co. Ltd. (and its cross-owned company Tianjin Taigang Daming Metal Product Co., Ltd.) either notified Commerce that they would not participate in this investigation or did not, in fact, participate in the investigation. Read more
The Industrial Metals ETF hits an 11-month high. Source: Stockcharts.com
Our historical analysis shows that a metal has far greater upside potential when the overall commodities market is in bullish mode, while its chances of going down increase in a falling commodities market. Although nickel’s fundamentals don’t look that bullish, the metal is definitely getting a boost as more investors jump into the industrial metal complex. In the chart above we see how base metals are on the rise since January.
Another factor helping nickel prices are expectations of lower nickel pig-iron exports from the Philippines. Ore producers in the Philippines warned earlier this year that they would cut production due to low prices. So far, Chinese imports of Philippine ore fell by 27% in the first five months of the year. Read more
Hot-rolled coil in the U.S. has risen over 70% on the year to date. Although trade cases are what helped U.S. steel prices the most, the domestic rally was also supported by rising steel prices in China, too.
Chinese Steel Prices Fall
Prices in China surged this year for two reasons:
First, this year we saw an improvement in steel market demand in China thanks to stimulus measures. Second, the world’s biggest steel producer vowed to cut production capacity by 45 million metric tons this year and 100-150 mmt over the next three to five years. This combination of demand and supply measures boosted sentiment in the steel market and prices in China rose.
Chinese HRC falls since April. Source: MetalMiner Index
The world steel sector has urged China to reform its steel sector because of growing international pressure on the country to halt its surging steel exports. But China, so far, is failing to produce results. Read more
So, as we discussed above, if the new, post-Brexit U.K. allows open access to workers from the European Union — and not allowing open borders and easy employment for other Europeans was the central plank and sticking point of the entire Leave campaign — it might be easier to make a deal with those former partner nations in the E.U. That would also raise the question, “what was all of this for?”
If discarding the objective of banning open access proves too much of a barrier, the U.K. may opt to fall back on World Trade Organization rules which will mean tariffs and possibly other bureaucratic barriers such as quotas will be established between the U.K. and Europe. That will encourage firms to locate future investment inside the single market rather than in the U.K.
What Might A Future Deal Look Like?
In the meantime, and a final solution could be two years away, the U.K. benefits from a lower pound which will boost exports to the single market and rest of the world. There are a number of models the U.K. could agree with Europe on, long-term, to establish trade rules and coexist in the future.
Germany exports the third-most of its goods to Great Britain behind only the U.S. and France. Negotiators are already trying to solve the puzzle of how to let the U.K. leave the E.U. without Germany leaving all of that business on the Brexit table. Source: Adobe Stock/Luzetania.
The Remain camp’s favorite is the Norwegian model that gives tariff-free access to the single market in return for free movement of labor, acceptance of many of the E.U.’s laws and payment into the E.U. budget, although no say whatsoever, into how that money is spent. The movement clause is likely a dealbreaker for Leave hardliners. Read more