China's steel exports hit a record high in 2006 despite government cooling measures and anti-dumping investigations launched by trade partners, according to customs figures released Tuesday.
China exported 43.01 million tonnes of steel in 2006, up 109.6 percent year-on-year, while imports dropped 28.3 percent to 18.51 million tonnes.
Net exports for the year reached 24.5 million tonnes.
Exports in December surged 19.9 percent from November to hit 5.55 million tonnes, up 205 percent from the same period last year.
Monthly imports decreased 17.5 percent year-on-year to stand at 1.51 million tonnes, up 2.3 percent from a month earlier, leaving net monthly exports at 4.04 million tonnes.
China's booming steel exports have long been blamed for trade friction. Steel producers in the United States and the American Iron and Steel Institute appealed to U.S. trade officials twice last year, demanding action to counter China's alleged subsidies to its steel manufacturers.
To ease tensions and to slow the production of energy- and resource-intensive products, the government cut the export tax rebate rate of steel products three times since last year, from 15 to eight percent, and ended subsidies to steel producers.
The authority has also pressed for industry consolidation by eradicating low capacity iron mills with high energy consumption to sharpen the industry competitiveness.
Furnaces with a maximum 200 cubic meters in volume, converters and electric furnaces with maximum capacities of 20 tonnes will no longer be put in operation in China, according to the China Iron and Steel Association (CSIA).
China imported 28.62 million tonnes of iron ore in December 2006, and imports for the whole year totaled 326.3 million tons.
China's largest steelmaker, the Baosteel Group, settled the iron ore price for 2007, at a 9.5 percent increase from last year, with the major Brazilian ore producer Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD).
The country has tightened its import rules to avoid putting further pressure on soaring international prices by requiring importers to double their registered capital to at least 20 million yuan.
The CSIA predicted imports are expected to rise to 355 million tonnes in 2007.
China is the world's biggest producer and consumer of steel, with hundreds of operational steel companies.
(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2007)