Protectionism overstated as threat to China steel exports – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – March 2, 2016)

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – One of the big questions surrounding China’s embattled steel sector is whether it can continue to ramp up exports or will protectionism around the globe curb one of the few bright spots for mills in the world’s largest producer.

The current market consensus would seem to be leaning toward the view that China will battle to increase steel exports, and may experience declines as more countries put import taxes and other measures in place to protect their domestic industries from the Chinese juggernaut.

So far, India, the United States and Indonesia have imposed some increased duties on steel imports from China, and measures are under consideration in other jurisdictions, including the European Union (EU) and Australia.

The number of countries looking at measures against Chinese steel and the plethora of media reports on the issue have helped rally the view that China is unlikely to be able to build on last year’s 20 percent jump in exports of steel products.

China exported 112.4 million tonnes of steel product last year, customs data shows, or about 9.36 million tonnes per month on average. This means exports were more than North America’s entire output and some 10 times greater than Britain’s.

The first month of 2016 saw exports of 9.74 million tonnes, which was 5.3 percent lower than January last year, but still comfortably ahead of the 12-month average.

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