A series of anti-dumping and countervailing investigations into Chinese steel products have been launched by the European Union, Australia and Canada since the beginning of 2013, posing challenges to the already struggling domestic steel industry, experts said Monday.
The latest one was initiated by the EU, which opened an anti-dumping investigation Saturday into imports of the China-produced seamless steel tubes with an outer diameter exceeding 406 millimeters.
In 2012, the amount of these steel tubes exported by China to the EU had a total value of $91.53 million, China's Ministry of Commerce said Saturday.
"Currently Tianjin Pipe (Group) Corp, Hebei Iron and Steel Group, Liaoning-based Benxi Steel Group and Angang Steel Co are major mills that have steel exports to the EU, so they will be affected by the EU's investigation," He Hangsheng, a steel industry analyst at Sun Sirs Commodity Data Group, told the Global Times Monday.
Four days before the EU's move, Australia launched anti-dumping and countervailing investigations into China-made hot-rolled steel products. On January 22, Canada initiated anti-dumping and countervailing investigations into imports of zinc-coated steel wires from China.
China is the world's largest exporter of steel products, so it is easy for the country to become the main target of rising global trade protectionism, experts said.
"The amount of steel exports involved in recent investigations is not large, but a series of these actions has sent a signal of increasing trade protectionism," He said.
"If more countries follow the move and launch similar investigations, it will be a heavy blow to the domestic steel industry, which is already struggling with the overcapacity problem," he noted.
Last year there were nine trade remedy cases against Chinese steel products launched by economies including the EU, Australia, Thailand and Brazil, the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) said in a statement published last month.
Also, "there is little possibility that trade frictions in the steel sector will be relieved in 2013," the association said.
"The frequent investigations indicate that the global economy is still sluggish, so countries prefer to adopt trade remedies to protect their domestic industries," said Xu Xiangchun, information director with industry consultancy mysteel.com.
China's steel exports to the EU slumped by 23.6 percent in 2012 from a year earlier, Xu cited data from the CISA.
"The EU continues to target Chinese steel mills despite the slump in exports, which is unfair and shows the European economy remains fragile," he noted.
China exported 55.73 million tons of steel products in 2012, a 14 percent year-on-year increase.
The top export destinations are ASEAN countries, which accounted for a quarter of the total exports, and South Korea, which accounted for 18 percent of the total exports, according to the CISA.
Xu expects China's steel exports might decrease in 2013 from a year earlier as a result of increasing trade protectionism, which will make the overcapacity problem in the domestic market more severe.