by Sohrab Darabshaw on MARCH 15, 2016
The way countries around the world, faced with downturns in their respective economies, are placing import curbs on metals or finished products, it almost seems to be a tit-for-tat battle.
Over the last three years, the U.S., some European nations, and India, China and South Korea, on the other side of the globe, have periodically imposed or increased duties to curb cheap imports.
U.S. Ferrous Tariffs
At the start of this March, as reported by MetalMiner, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its affirmative preliminary determinations in anti-dumping duty investigations of imports of cold-rolled steel flat products from Brazil, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the U.K.
While China received a previously unheard of preliminary dumping margin of 265.79%, based on adverse facts available, the India respondent to the investigation JSW Steel Limited/JSW Coated Products Limited got off relatively lightly and received a preliminary dumping margin of 6.78%. All other producers/exporters in India received a preliminary dumping margin of 6.78%.
Aluminum Import Duties
Apart from steel, the US aluminum industry, too, of late, has increased its efforts to address China’s overproduction capacity and the resulting glut in the global market. The “China Trade Task Force,” a cooperative effort between smelter Century Aluminumand the United Steelworkers union, have been working to slow imports of cheap Chinese product for some time, but now the industry trade group the Aluminum Association is speaking out more forcefully.
And before you could say aluminum, the Indian government, a few days ago, proposed raising the basic customs duty on the metal by 2.5% in a bid to protect local producers from cheap imports. To be fair, though, to India’s government, the proposal is part of the country’s 2016-17 union budget, so it was not a sudden, knee-jerk move, but a carefully thought out proposition in the wake of increasing demands by local producers.
Basic customs duties were proposed to be hiked on primary aluminum from 5% to 7.5%, and on aluminum products from 7.5% to 10%.
Vedanta Wonders If It’s Worth It
The aluminum lobby in India has been pressing for an increase in the face of low-priced aluminum from foreign countries making its way into the Indian market for years. Some local producers, unable to keep up, even slipped into losses. Vedanta Resources, in August, initiated the process to shut down its 1 million metric ton per year alumina refinery in Odisha.
But Vedanta Resources CEO Anil Agarwal said the move lost meaning, since the hiked duty had been “neutralized” by doubling the tax on coal. In the same union budget, there is a promise to double the clean-energy tax on coal, which now will make the fuel costlier for metal producers, effectively wiping out the gains made by increasing the import tax.
According to industry data, total aluminum imports in India had grown by over 159% to 1,563,000 metric tons in 2015 against 881,0001 mt in 2011, mainly from China and Middle-Eastern countries. This has led to imports accounting for 56% of the Indian aluminum consumption in 2014-15, while products of Indian producers accounted for only 44%.
Interestingly, while the Indian government has taken the step to hike duties to protect local industry, some experts have argued against the move. The government’s own report India’s Economic Survey 2015-16, released before the budget, itself indicated that raising tariffs to quell imports of cheap aluminum would do harm to downstream sectors such as power, transportation and construction.
The report said India’s aluminum industry would continue to experience tough economic times unless the global aluminum price increased. The domestic aluminum industry’s capacity utilization had dropped over the last eighteen months, matching the global aluminum price decline. As of now, India’s cost of production for aluminum was higher than the current global price for the metal, part of it attributed to market saturation by China.