Archive for ‘Steel’

28/02/2017

China voices disquiet over new EU anti-dumping move on steel | Reuters

China expressed concerns on Tuesday over what it said was increasing protectionism after European Union regulators imposed new duties on steel imports from the world’s biggest producer.

The European Commission is seeking to protect EU steelmakers while avoiding tensions with Beijing, which it sees as a possible ally against protectionism and climate change.It imposed definitive anti-dumping duties of between 65.1 percent and 73.7 percent on imports of heavy plate non-alloy or other alloy steel from China on Tuesday, confirming provisional tariffs set in October.

This prompted a statement from China’s Commerce Ministry calling on Europe to treat Chinese companies “fairly and impartially”, adding it was ready to strengthen communication with the EU to tackle issues in the industry.

The companies named in the Commission’s ruling included Nanjing Iron & Steel Co Ltd, Minmetals Yingkou Medium Plate Co Ltd, Wuyang Iron and Steel Co Ltd [WYIAS.UL] and Wuyang New Heavy & Wide Steel Plate Co Ltd.

The EU executive said it acted after an investigation found Chinese companies to be heavily dumping their products on the EU market by selling them at well below half of the price on the producers’ home market.

“The Commission has responded forcefully and quickly to unfair competition, while at the same time ensuring that the rights of all interested parties have been protected,” the Commission said in a statement.

Eurofer, which represents the European steel sector, said the Commission had found clear evidence of dumping.”Tens of thousands of steel jobs have been lost in Europe over the past few years, and dumping, particularly demonstrably from China, has been one of the causes,” it said in a statement.

The EU has strengthened its policy against what it considers unfair competition for its steel industry, and said its new approach had allowed it to decide on trade sanctions more quickly than in the past.

It said on Tuesday it has 41 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures in place, 18 of which are on products from China.Also on Tuesday, Europe’s second highest court backed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties imposed by the EU nearly four years ago on imports of Chinese solar panels.

Source: China voices disquiet over new EU anti-dumping move on steel | Reuters

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12/01/2017

Pen power: China closer to ballpoint success – BBC News

It has sent rockets into space, produced millions of the world’s smartphones and built high-speed trains. But until now, one bit of manufacturing had perhaps unexpectedly eluded China: the ballpoint pen.

A year ago Premier Li Keqiang went on national television and bemoaned the failure of his country to produce a good quality version of this seemingly-simple implement.

Locally-made versions felt “rough” compared to those from Germany, Switzerland and Japan, Mr Li complained.

High precisionThe problem was not the body of the pen, but the tip – the tiny ball that dispenses ink as you write.It might be something we take for granted, but making them requires high-precision machinery and very hard, ultra-thin steel plates.

Put simply, China’s steel has not been good enough. And it has struggled to shape its pen tips accurately.

Li Keqiang has held a few pens in his time as Chinese Premier

Without that ability, China’s 3,000 penmakers have had to import this crucial component from abroad, costing the industry a reported 120m yuan ($17.3m; £14.3m) a year.

But according to People’s Daily, the state-owned Taiyuan Iron and Steel Co thinks it has cracked the problem, after five years of research.

The first batch of 2.3-millimetre ballpoint pen tips has recently rolled off its production lines, the paper says.

And once lab tests are completed, it’s expected China could phase out pen tip imports completely within two years.

Symbolic

On one level, whether China can make a great pen is not hugely important in the scheme of things.

High-tech and innovative manufacturing lie at the heart of the central government’s Made in China 2025 programme – designed to help domestic growth.

Relatively low-value items, like ballpoint pens, have not been a priority.

But the pen-conundrum is a symbolic one.

European firms have dominated the ballpoint pen industry at both the top and lower ends of the market

Despite producing more than half of the world’s crude iron and steel, China has still heavily relied on imports for high-grade steel.

It was a failing that Mr Li said highlighted the need to upgrade China’s manufacturing capabilities.

Different culture

“Historically, China has never been able to do precision engineering very well and the ballpoint pen is an example of that,” says Professor George Huang, head of the University of Hong Kong’s department of industrial and mechanical engineering.

“Its parts are so small and very precise, and it’s not easy to solve this problem”

Precision engineering is thriving only in certain sectors such as aerospace and defence where the government has placed a high priority, says Prof Huang.

Even when it comes to smartphones and computers, the high end computer chips are usually imported from Japan and Taiwan.

Prof Huang says that China lacks a culture of excellence in precision engineering.

He uses the Mandarin term “fuzao” which describes something that is not 100% solid or reliable.

“The culture is different from the Japanese and Germans,” he says, who are known for innovation in engineering.”We Chinese are supposed to be craftsmen, but somehow the spirit is not as good.”

Source: Pen power: China closer to ballpoint success – BBC News

24/08/2016

The perils of peace in China’s commodity industries | The Economist

WHEN the number of strikes plummets, something significant is usually going on. Strikes in China’s mining, iron and steel industries have fallen from more than 40 in January to four a month or fewer between May and August, according to China Labour Bulletin, an NGO based in Hong Kong. The explanation seems to be that China is backtracking on plans for the restructuring of state-owned firms in these sectors.

In February the government announced that it would redeploy 1.8m people, or 15% of the workforce, in the bloated and debt-laden coal, iron and steel industries. Just after that, a huge strike over unpaid wages by coal miners in the north-east dramatised the risks of trying to force through massive lay-offs and plant closures. So local officials have dragged their feet. According to the national planning authority, in the first seven months of the year provincial governments achieved only 38% of their full year’s targets for coal production cuts.

Fear of unrest is not the only explanation. Commodity prices have rebounded slightly this year, so local authorities are playing a game of chicken, keeping mines and factories open and hoping the neighbours will close theirs, so they themselves will be the ones to gain from higher prices. China itself is not benefiting.

Source: The perils of peace in China’s commodity industries | The Economist

29/07/2016

China Steels Its Resolve, But ‘Zombies’ Abound – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s steel industry is a test case for the nation’s ability to restructure overbuilt parts of the economy, and so far it’s not going very well.

Seven months into 2016, China has cut just 30% of the 45 million tons of steel capacity it has pledged to pare this year. And a Renmin University study found that more than half of China’s steel companies are “zombies.

”They define zombie firms as companies that have received below-market interest rates for two years running — a sign that they are being artificially propped up by their local governments or other government financing. Essentially, they are dependent on cheap financing to stay alive.Steel firms led the list, with 51.4% zombies in the sector, followed by the property sector, with 44.5% zombies and construction with 31.2%.

Renmin economists said local governments long nurtured sectors such as steel with the central government’s blessing. Now that the pressure is on to scale back, they tend to resist central government calls for cuts, given the impact on jobs, local economic growth and officials’ promotions, economists say.

An indication of that resistance is seen in recent data. Despite calls from Prime Minister Li Keqiang on down to turn off blast furnaces and shutter steel production lines, the industry posted record daily crude steel production in June, driven by easy money policies and a speculation-fueled upturn in the property market — which is itself suffering from overcapacity. Industry Vice Minister Fei Feng told reporters this week he didn’t expect a recent rebound in steel prices to last.

“For the purpose of political performance and maintaining stability, local governments continued to give blood to those zombie firms in various forms that were on the brink of bankruptcy,” the Renmin report said, adding that governments should interfere less in how companies operate and accelerate reform of state companies.

Officials have blamed this year’s slow progress on capacity trim on the lengthy negotiations required to allocate those cuts among China’s 28 provincial governments.

China, which accounts for half of global steel production, remains confident it will fulfill capacity cut targets for 2016, industry Vice Minister Feng told reporters, adding that the reductions so far this year are in line with expectations.

In all, China has vowed to cut up to 150 million tons of extraneous steel production over the next five years. Even that goal targets only 10% of the nation’s excess steel capacity, which is currently around 30%, according to industry analysts. This comes as rising exports fuel tension with overseas companies and labor groups alleging that China is selling steel at prices below its cost of production.

Beijing’s counter argument is a bit of a circular one: The problem isn’t that China is making too much steel, but that global demand is inadequate.

A disproportionate number of steelmakers are state-owned enterprises, a group that accounts for some 55% of China’s corporate debt but only produces 22% of economic output, according to International Monetary Fund data. China’s corporate debt hit approximately 145% of gross domestic product in 2015, up from less than 100% in 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund, a level it characterized as “high by any measure.

”Across all sectors, zombie firms make up 7.5% of the 800,000 industrial companies between 2005 and 2013 that Renmin studied, down from a peak of about 30% in 2000 shortly before China embarked on its last serious reform of the state sector. President Xi Jinping has called for state companies to remain a core part of China’s economy.

As companies age, they are increasingly likely to become zombies. About 30% of firms founded more than three decades ago qualify as zombie firms, according to Renmin’s research, compared with just 3% among firms with less than five years’ history.

Source: China Steels Its Resolve, But ‘Zombies’ Abound – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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