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Non-ferrous mixed metals: China slashes import approvals

Global – For mixed metals, the volume of imports approved to date by China is a mere 10% of what it was in 2017, laments David Chiao, president of the BIR non-ferrous metals division, in the body’s latest Mirror publication. ‘The number of items has shrunk too, with insulated copper wire and cable eliminated for the southern China region,’ he adds.

According to Ma Hongchang, BIR’s advisor on regulatory and policy developments in China, seven batches of import quotas had been approved by the end of February, covering 430 227 tons of mixed metals as well as 5 304 367 tons of recovered paper, 27 831 tons of scrap plastic and 157 782 tons of vessels for salvaging.

As a result, scrap inventories are ‘extremely low’ at most processing yards in China, the Mirror reports. The impact in the USA, by contrast, is that chopping lines for insulated copper wire are ‘working at full capacity’ while manufacturers of this equipment ‘have full order books and are already sold out for the balance of the year’.

And from the Nordic Countries, it is observed that some forms of cable ‘are now being treated locally rather than exported’. Elsewhere, the Reserve Bank of India has asked the country’s banks to discontinue issuing all Letters of Undertaking and Letters of Comfort with immediate effect.

As a result, importers will no longer be able to get credit by raising dollar finance through their banks’ overseas branches against import bills at a much cheaper interest than local rates, thus putting huge pressure on liquidity.

Also of wide significance, US president Donald Trump’s decision to introduce import tariffs of 10% on aluminium and 25% on steel has sparked talk of reprisals and even of a trade war.

‘BIR’s standpoint on this is always very clear: we encourage free and fair trade,’ comments Chiao. In terms of immediate response, it has already been reported that some old primary aluminium production in the USA will be restarted, while some rolling mills in Canada are indicating that they will build new facilities in the USA.

Across in the Middle East, the first quarter has been ‘a tricky period’, it is stated in the Mirror, following the introduction of VAT in the GCC and the resulting need to ‘adapt to the new system for both the procurement of metals and exports’.

In Europe, meanwhile, low temperatures and heavy snow have ‘massively’ impacted availability and supply of scrap in recent weeks. ‘Even small and medium-size scrap companies with traditionally regular flows were reporting lower volumes arriving at their yards, especially high-grade/mill-ready materials,’ it is noted from Germany.

‘Some traders with long-term contracts reportedly started knocking on the doors of other market participants to see if they could help in fulfilling existing orders.’

This article is based on the latest Non-Ferrous Metals World Mirror produced by the BIR world recycling organisation for the benefit of its members.

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