SOURCE / ECONOMY
Chile’s border shutdown won’t affect China’s copper imports from Australia: analysts
Published: Apr 08, 2021 09:13 PM
A worker at the electronic copper foil production line in Jiujiang Defu Technology Corp in East China's Jiangxi Province, on January 19. Photo: VCG

A worker at the electronic copper foil production line in Jiujiang Defu Technology Corp in East China's Jiangxi Province, on January 19. Photo: VCG


 
Chile, the world's largest copper ore exporter, announced plans to shut its borders for 30 days due to a raging COVID-19 pandemic, causing uncertainty over global copper supplies. 

While China needs to further diversify its import channels for the metal, the country is unlikely to turn to Australian copper, considering China's own import structure and the deteriorating relations between Canberra and Beijing, industry analysts said on Thursday.

As the pandemic resurges in Chile, whose copper ore output accounts for one-third of the global supply, the South American nation decided to shut its borders for 30 days, starting from Monday.

In reaction, the price of copper futures on the London Metal Exchange increased 3.6 percent to hit $9,104 per ton.

Amid the rising uncertainty, China -- the world's largest copper ore importer -- must diversify its import sources to hedge its risks, experts say. China is likely to increase imports from other major copper ore sources such as Peru and Mongolia as domestic demand remains strong, Chinese metal analysts told the Global Times.

"Considering that China's copper ore imports from Australia only accounted for about 3.5 percent of its total imports in 2020, combined with deteriorating bilateral ties, China's copper imports from Australia are unlikely to change," Wang Guoqing, research director at the Beijing Lange Steel Information Research Center, told the Global Times on Thursday.

According to data from OEC, an online data visualization and distribution platform focused on the geography and dynamics of economic activities, China was the world's top copper ore importer in 2019, when it purchased $31.3 billion worth of the metal, accounting for 52.3 percent of the world's total production. 

The amount of copper used by a country is a direct barometer of the country's industrial strength. 

According to Chinese Customs, the country imported 21.8 million tons of copper ore in 2020, with 7.72 million tons coming from Chile and 783,746 tons from Australia.

In December 2020, China's copper ore imports from Australia suddenly fell to zero. The sharp decrease was widely taken by Australian media as China's countermeasure after Canberra took a series of hostile actions against China, including a ban on Huawei's 5G gear, though China never officially recognized such claims.

"China's copper imports from Australia had shown a decreasing trend in recent years. Given the background of the deteriorating bilateral ties, it is not necessary for China to increase imports from Australia, as the portion is small and Chile's one-month border shutdown won't have too much impact on supply," Wang said.


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