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Policies to slow steel exports begin to pay off
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Growth in China's steel exports slowed in 2007, despite the country remaining a net seller of the strategic products.

Last year, the country exported 62.65 million tons of rolled steel, a growth of 45.8 percent over the previous year, a General Administration of Customs source said on Thursday.

The growth rate was 63.7 percentage points lower than the year-earlier level.

Meanwhile, the country imported 16.87 million tons of rolled steel, down 8.8 percent. Net exports stood at 45.76 million tons.

The customs source said the slowdown in exports was a result of government policies to contain exports.

Since April, China has slashed export tax rebates and increased export duties four times, in addition to putting some steel products under an export licensing system.

The aim was to end the disorder in steel exports and rampant expansion of production capacities at home. At the same time, it was to expedite industrial restructuring and upgrading.

Though the growth rate slowed, concentration of the steel industry remained unsatisfactory. In the first half of 2007, the leading 10 steel producers accounted for 35 percent of the nation's total output, still far behind the 50-percent requirement set by the government for 2010.

According to the customs source, growth in steel sales to traditional markets ebbed dramatically while demand from emerging markets became stronger.

The Republic of Korea (ROC), European Union and ASEAN remained the top three target markets of Chinese steel products last year, accounting for 33.34 million tons, or 52.3 percent, of the country's total steel exports. But the growth rate in combined exports for the three markets went down 60.7 percentage points to 45.7 percent.

Iran bought 3.14 million tons of rolled steel from China, representing a growth of 510 percent and edging to fifth place among overseas markets for the country's steel.

China turned from a net importer to a net exporter of rolled steel in 2006.

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2008)

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