[SHANGHAI] China's Commerce Ministry said on Thursday it was deeply concerned about protectionism in the US steel sector and urged the United States to strictly abide by World Trade Organization rules.
"The US steel sector has been in a state of overprotection," the ministry said in a statement on its website, adding that this overprotection has made the US sector uncompetitive.
Steel mills in China, the world's biggest producer and consumer of the metal, have raised production despite the government's efforts to cut overcapacity and beefed up exports. This has escalated trade spats between China and other steel producing nations such as Japan, India and the United States.
As evidence of the excess protection in the US market, the ministry noted that the US has already imposed 161 duties for trade remedies on steel products against other countries by the end of April 2016.
The ministry said that the difficulties facing the global steel sector have resulted from falling demand, and the growing trade protectionism from the US will only intensify conflicts and disputes without helping to solve problems.
The ministry statement follows a ruling from the US International Trade Commission on Wednesday that found imports of cold-rolled steel products from China are hurting US producers, paving the way for hefty anti-dumping duties.
In May, the Commerce Department had recommended slapping Chinese steelmakers with import duties of 522 per cent on cold-rolled flat steel, and anti-dumping duties of 71.35 per cent on Japanese producers.
US regulators also launched an investigation at the end of May into complaints by United States Steel Corp that Chinese competitors stole its secrets and fixed prices as the company sought to halt nearly all imports from China's largest steel producers and trading houses.
China is prioritising supply-side reform in the steel sector due to sagging prices to help overhaul its industrial sector. It has vowed to slash steel capacity by 100 million to 150 million tonnes over five years from around 1.1 billion tonnes.