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Latin America's steel trade deficit with China rises 8% in 2017

Sao Paulo — Latin America's steel value chain registered a $23.44 billion trade deficit with China in 2017, up 8% from the $21.64 billion deficit in 2016, the Latin America steel association, Alacero, said Wednesday.

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The value chain includes raw materials, finished steel products and indirect steel trade.

"This is mainly due to the increase of raw materials and steel products prices, as well as the intensification of indirect trade between China and the region with respect to the previous year," Alacero said.

For raw materials -- iron ore, coal, scrap, among others -- Alacero said prices were higher in 2017 when compared with 2016. Despite this, China's imports of raw material from Latin America rose 5% to 265 million mt. The main product was iron ore, with 90% of the total originating in Brazil.



Shipments of raw material from China to the Latin American region dropped 4% in volume to 1.1 million mt, but jumped 66% in value to $455 million. Coke was the main product China sent to the region, at 913,000 mt, 13% less than in 2016.

Exports of rolled steel from China to Latin America fell 8% to 7 million mt. The region exported 9,200 mt of rolled steel to China, 2% above 9,000 mt in 2016.

Central America (1.4 million mt), Chile (1.4 million mt) and Peru (962,000 mt) were the main destinations for Chinese steel products.

"Flat products accounted for 68% of all steel entering Latin America from China (4.7 million mt), an increase of 22% from 2016's 3.9 million mt. Long products received from China reached 1.2 million mt, 53% less than in 2016 (2.6 million mt)," Alacero said.

Seamless tubes totaled 250,000 mt, with other steel products accounting for 754,000 mt.

By volume, the most representative flat products from China in 2017 were: sheets and coils of other alloy steel (1.4 million mt) and hot dip galvanized (1.2 million mt). The most representative long products were wire rod (578,000 mt) and bars (544,000).

In 2017, the trade deficit between Latin America and China reached $37.90 million, 19% above 2016. Chinese exports to Latin America of products with high steel content included in the indirect steel trade reached 6.1 million in 2017, up 10% from last year.

Conversely, Chinese imports from the region reached barely 59,400 mt of steel content, 7% below 2016. Products with steel content includes vehicles, machinery and other equipment.

"While Latin America continues to record a surplus in the trade of steel raw materials with China, this is not enough to compensate for the deficit in finished products and indirect trade", Alacero said. "The region needs to increase its capacity to manufacture and export higher value-added products ... to reduce the gaps that exist with the main economies of the world," it said.

--Guilherme Baida, guilherme.baida@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com