This Morning in Metals: Kobe Steel Hopes New Personnel Can Help Restore Image

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This morning in metals news, Kobe Steel‘s personnel shake-up constitutes one attempt to put distance between the company and its quality data falsification scandal, the chairman of the Japan Iron and Steel Federation said China’s steel output is under control despite record production in 2017 and the fate of the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is up in the air.

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Embattled Kobe Steel Shakes Up Personnel

Japan’s Kobe Steel, mired in a quality data falsification scandal, is shaking up its personnel in an effort to rehabilitate its reputation.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, among other changes the firm installed its former head of steel marketing, Yukimasa Miyashita, as the senior managing executive officer responsible for aluminum and copper, replacing an official dismissed last December.

In good news for the firm, Toyota Motor last week said it had inspected vehicles that used products that had been linked to the scandal and confirmed that they meet Toyota’s internal quality standards, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Chinese Steel Output ‘Under Control’

Kosei Shindo, the chairman of the Japan Iron and Steel Federation, said that despite record Chinese steel output last year, the country’s output was under control, Reuters reported.

Shindo cited strong local demand and China’s closure of illegal capacity as the basis for his outlook, Reuters reported.

NAFTA Hangs in the Balance

With five rounds of NAFTA renegotiation talks in the books already, negotiating teams from the U.S., Mexico and Canada head into the sixth round this week in Montreal with increased pessimism regarding the trade deal’s survival.

Senior officials will meet for the sixth and final round of talks beginning Tuesday, Reuters reported, as the U.S. continues to push policy items like stricter automotive rules of origin and a potential sunset clause (at which Canada and Mexico have balked).

In another public threat to the deal, President Donald Trump last Thursday tweeted that “NAFTA is a bad joke!” The tweet was the latest of a series of public rebukes of the deal from the president throughout the course of the talks.

According to the report, Canadian officials are becoming increasingly pessimistic that a deal can be reached, seemingly resigned to the idea that Trump will withdraw from the deal.

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“There is still a shred of optimism, but I have to say the consensus around the room … felt like it’s not if, it’s when he’s going to pull the plug,” said Rona Ambrose, a council member and former Canadian minister, to CTV television, according to the Reuters report.

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