China's major iron ore traders are likely to join the nation's negotiating team for next year's talks on a long-term contract with major suppliers.
According to sources close to the situation, the suggestion to enlarge China's negotiating team was made by China's Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemical Importers and Exporters and the China Steel and Iron Industry Association.
The move is aimed at creating a more balanced force in negotiations with foreign miners, including Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio Doce and Anglo-Australian groups Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Billiton Ltd.
Over the past two years, China's largest steel producer Shanghai Baosteel Group was the only trader involved in negotiations with international suppliers.
The country's two largest iron ore traders, China Minmetal Corp and Sinosteel Corporation, are likely to be included in the negotiation team for next year's talks.
Sinosteel President Huang Tianwen was quoted by China Business News as saying that traders are more familiar with international trade rules and would offer useful suggestions if allowed to participate in the negotiations.
Professional traders are a major force in the negotiating teams of some other key iron ore import countries, such as Japan.
Although steel producers had led long-term iron ore contract negotiations over the past two years, almost two-thirds of the country's imports were controlled by traders.
China, the world's largest steelmaker, significantly cut its iron ore imports in the second quarter of this year due to increased investment in domestic mines, international price hikes and an increased domestic ore supply, said Luo Bingsheng, vice-president of the China Steel and Iron Industry Association.
China's iron ore imports in the first quarter of 2006 grew 27.73 percent year-on-year, while they dropped 18.45 percent in the second quarter, and rose just 14.56 percent in July.
China's iron ore imports will continue to fall slightly in the coming months, said Luo.
It is estimated that China's iron ore imports will total 312 million tons this year, meaning that annual growth will slow to around 13 percent. The country's iron ore imports have increased over 30 percent year-on-year over the past five years.
Some experts expected that the continued rise in China's iron ore output would put pressure on iron ore prices.
Chinese iron ore importers suffered price increases of over 40 percent in 2005 and 15 percent in 2006.
(China Daily September 28, 2006)