ISSB maintains a detailed database of the imports and exports of steel and steelmaking raw materials for more than 50 major steelmaking nations, collectively accounting for 97% of global steel output. This high level of coverage also allows an accurate assessment of the trade flows for those countries for which we cannot obtain national trade data.
In 2013 global output reached 1,607 million tonnes, 3% up on 2012. This increase was driven by a further jump in Chinese production, which was up 7% year on year and now accounts for well over 48% of the world total. Discounting Chinese production, the rest of the world was flat when compared to 2012. Looking at the largest steel producers, it can be seen that different regions had differing fortunes over the year. Much of Asia increased output, and apart from China it can also be seen that Taiwan was up 8%, India was up 5% and Japan increased by 3% with South Korea the only major Asian producing country to show a decline, down by 4%. Other notable increases were Iran, up 7% and Mexico, up 2%. Apart from Mexico, the NAFTA countries did not fare well with Canada down 8% and the US falling by 2%. Indeed, if the current rates continue, it will not be long before India overtakes the US as the world’s fourth largest steel producing region. It should also be noted that despite the well documented problems within Europe, crude steel production only fell by 2% year on year.
Below we summarise World Steel Association crude steel production data.
Of the large steel producing nations, China continued to export more steel and is now by far the largest exporter in the world. The EU exported an increased amount as internal demand fell and a weak Euro made their exports more competitive. South Korea, Russia and Turkey also showed large increases in their exports of steel.
The world’s largest steel importer, the US imported 17% more in 2012 when compared to 2011 as the economy started to recover following the downturn. China and South Korea continued to position themselves more as net exporters as higher domestic production led to a fall in imports. The widely publicised demand problems within the EU are shown clearly here with a 26% fall when compared to 2011. Apart from the USA, large increases in imports were seen in Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia.
Global Trade in Steelmaking Raw Materials
Iron ore exports are dominated by Australia and Brazil, with demand driven by Chinese imports. 2010 saw iron ore exports reach new heights with combined shipments by the top 15 exporting nations reaching 280 million tonnes in Quarter 4 alone and with annual shipments exceeding 1 billion tonnes for the first time. The 2010 total represents a 12% increase on 2009 levels and was reached despite a 1% fall in China's imports.
2011 saw iron ore exports rise by 4%. China's imports rose faster than the rise in domestic crude steel production, suggesting a fall in the contribution from domestic mines, with the 2011 total of 687 million tonnes 11% up on 2010. Of the major exporters only India showed a decline following increases to export tariffs.
Global Trade in Scrap
In 2012, global imports of scrap fell (by 2%) for the first time in recent history. This fall, slightly mitigated by increases in Turkish, South Korean and Indian imports, was driven by reductions in the EU as a continued lack of demand in the construction sector led to reduced EAF production; and falls in Chinese imports as more Chinese scrap was sourced internally.
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