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China to gradually reduce metal export quotas

[BEIJING] China will over time reduce its export quotas for metals, the spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday, in a move aimed at complying with a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling that sees these curbs as discriminatory.

The country was widely expected to abolish the quota system and taxes after the WTO ruling in March last year that said such export tariffs violated trade rules by giving domestic consumers an unfair advantage over foreign competitors. "The trend is that fewer metals will carry export quotas over time," the spokesman Shen Danyang said.

When asked about China's export tariff on primary aluminium, Shen said no progress had been made for now as any change to the tax structure would involve other departments and more research.

China is the world's top producer and consumer of primary aluminium and levies an export tax of 15 per cent on the metal. Smelters have lobbied Beijing in past few years to cancel or cut the tax as the domestic market is oversupplied.

Higher Chinese exports would support domestic metal prices, but drag on global aluminium futures that rose only about 3 per cent last year, retaining most of their sharp 13 percent drop from 2013.

China has kept export quotas on tin, antimony, indium and silver this year after removing the quotas on exports of rare earths, molybdenum and tungsten.