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China April aluminium, steel exports rise, defying US tariffs

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China's aluminium exports inched higher in April as US import tariffs were offset by a spike in international prices due to US sanctions on Rusal that encouraged Chinese firms to send more metal abroad.

[BEIJING] China's aluminium exports inched higher in April as US import tariffs were offset by a spike in international prices due to US sanctions on Rusal that encouraged Chinese firms to send more metal abroad.

Steel exports also jumped, official customs data showed on Tuesday, rising to their highest level since August last year.

The United States imposed a 25 per cent duty on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium imports, including from China, effective March 23 as US President Donald Trump sought to protect US metal makers.

The United States accounts for around 14 per cent of Chinese aluminuim exports but only 1 per cent of its steel exports.

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Unwrought aluminium and aluminium product exports, including primary, alloy and semi-finished aluminium products, came in at 451,000 tonnes last month, up 0.2 per cent from a revised 450,000 tonnes in March and up 4.9 per cent from 430,000 tonnes in April 2017, the General Administration of Customs said on Tuesday.

April has one less day than March, so the latest increase was greater on a daily basis.

Exports of steel products, meanwhile, rose 14.7 per cent to 6.48 million tonnes in April.

That compared with 5.65 million tonnes in March and 6.49 million tonnes in April 2017.

Washington imposed sanctions on Russia's Rusal, the world's second-biggest aluminium producer, on April 6, causing London Metal Exchange (LME) aluminium prices to rise 12.5 per cent last month on fears of a supply shortage.

Shanghai aluminium prices climbed only 4.8 per cent in April in a well supplied Chinese market, creating a price arbitrage to the LME that encouraged Chinese producers to ship more metal overseas.

"Exports are still happening, which suggests the tariff is not really having a material impact at this point," said Lachlan Shaw, a metals analyst at UBS in Melbourne.

"Certainly anecdotal reporting from within the US aluminium products manufacturing sector suggests that some fabricators are just paying the tariffs to secure the required imports. So it appears that trade is holding up for now," he added.

REUTERS