This Morning in Metals: U.S. Steel to restart blast furnace at Gary Works

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This morning in metals news: amid improving demand, U.S. Steel plans to restart a blast furnace at its Gary Works; the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) went into effect today; and China could be aiming to diversify its iron ore supply portfolio.

U.S. Steel to restart Gary Works blast furnace

U.S. Steel plans to restart a blast furnace at its Gary Works facility, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.

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According to U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan Cox, the blast furnace is restarting on the heels of growth in customer demand, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.

USMCA goes into effect

After multiple years of back and forth among the U.S., Canada and Mexico over modernizing the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the sides finally reached a deal, with all three countries having ratified it as of March 2020.

That deal, dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), officially goes into effect today, July 1.

The North American steel industry celebrated the update to the trilateral trade pact in a press release from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

“Today, the North American steel industry celebrates the entry into force of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a critical milestone for the North American steel sector, its workers, and its supply chains,” the release stated.

“The USMCA establishes a strong foundation for mutually beneficial trade in North America. The USMCA will strengthen the competitiveness of all three trading partners while enhancing the development of North America’s globally competitive advanced manufacturing sector, particularly for North American steel producers.

“The USMCA benefits North American steelmakers and the entire sector by further strengthening our existing integrated supply chains in the region and by improving on the terms of the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  This is accomplished through the coming into force of strengthened rules of origin and enhanced regional value content requirements.”

China to diversify iron ore supply?

As the world’s No. 1 steel producer, China needs iron ore — lots of it.

But on the heels of supply disruptions in Brazil and trade tensions with major iron ore supplier Australia, China may be looking to diversify its iron ore procurement portfolio. According to Bloomberg, more than 60% of China’s iron ore imports come from Australia, with 20% coming from Brazil.

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According to Bloomberg, He Wenbo, secretary general of China Iron and Steel Association, called for mills to jointly develop iron ore projects overseas or buy stakes in mining companies in an effort to diversify the country’s supply sources and mitigate supply disruptions.

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