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China's top steel province misses 2014 GDP growth target

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Tougher anti-pollution measures and slowing demand slowed economic growth in China's top steel producing province of Hebei to 6.5 per cent in 2014 from 7.7 per cent in the previous year

[BEIJING] Tougher anti-pollution measures and slowing demand slowed economic growth in China's top steel producing province of Hebei to 6.5 per cent in 2014 from 7.7 per cent in the previous year, the state news agency Xinhua reported late on Thursday.

Hebei had set a GDP target of 8 per cent for the year, but a campaign to improve air quality and slash excessive production capacity eroded the province's growth by as much as 1.75 percentage points, Xinhua said, citing Chen Yongjiu, the head of the provincial Development and Reform Commission.

The province, which surrounds the capital Beijing, produces about a quarter of China's total steel output. The poorly regulated sector has been one of the primary targets of a government-led war on pollution as seven of China's 10 smoggiest cities are in Hebei.

Under pressure from Beijing, Hebei pledged in 2013 to cut steel capacity by 60 million tonnes over the 2014-2017 period. It met its target of 15 million tonnes last year, Xinhua said.

Hebei also promised to reduce cement production by 60 million tonnes and coal consumption by 30 million tonnes over the same period.

The province's official steel capacity stood at 286 million tonnes a year at the beginning of 2014. Crude steel production in Hebei in the first 11 months of last year reached 171.27 million tonnes, down 1.7 per cent compared to the same period of 2013.

Hebei officials have been calling on the central government for more support, and China is about to publish wide-ranging plans to integrate the province's economy with Beijing and Tianjin in order to help reduce growing income disparities.

REUTERS