LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) – China’s base metals imports stopped offering a simple, over-arching story line several years ago. The country has built out ever more processing capacity over the last decade, meaning that the “real” story is often what’s happening at the raw materials stage of the supply chain.
In cases such as aluminium, China has arguably constructed too much smelter capacity, to the point that the rest of the world has stopped caring about how much it imports but rather how much it exports.
Across the rest of the metallic complex, individual market dynamics have become ever more important, fracturing the Chinese trade picture into multiple, sometimes contradictory parts. Against an increasingly kaleidoscopic backdrop, here are five key take-aways from last year’s trade flows.
China flipped from marginal net exporter of refined lead in the previous four years to big importer in 2017. Indeed, net imports of 70,900 tonnes were the second highest ever, eclipsed only in 2009, a year of global financial and trade upheaval.
Two countries accounted for the bulk of last year’s inbound flows, Australia with 39,400 tonnes and Kazakhstan with 26,300 tonnes. What caused this dramatic reversal in trade patterns?