China slashes Sept U.S. scrap copper imports; sends alumina to Iceland, India

2 November 2018

Chinese imports of scrap metal from the United States fell in September, according to customs data on Thursday, spelling out the impact of tariffs imposed by Beijing, while India and Iceland benefited from a boom in Chinese alumina exports.

China’s General Administration of Customs said in a statement posted on its website on Thursday that it was making available to the public monthly data on the import and export of commodities, including the country of origin for imports and destination for exports.

Customs had previously provided such data for a fee but suspended this service in April.

A search of the data showed China imported 9,641,673 kilograms, or just 9,642 tonnes, of scrap copper from the United States in September, the most recent month available. That was down 80.1 percent from 50,243 tonnes of imports reported by customs a year earlier.

From January to September, scrap copper shipments from the United States fell 13.8 percent, according to Reuters calculations, to 335,636 tonnes.

China has been cutting imports of scrap and waste for environmental reasons, and in August imposed a 25 percent tariff on scrap material from the United States, one of its biggest suppliers, as part of a tit-for-tat trade row between the world’s top two economies.

Partially replacing the U.S. volumes, scrap copper imports from Japan in September more than doubled to 46,446 tonnes from 19,198 tonnes a year earlier.

Imports of U.S. scrap aluminium, which were also hit with a 25 percent tariff in August on top of an earlier 25 percent retaliatory tariff in April, fell in September by 39 percent from a year earlier to 33,880 tonnes.

In the January to September, shipments were down a more modest 5.5 percent to 433,373 tonnes.

Meanwhile, the data also revealed that countries as far apart as Iceland, India and Cameroon have been buying Chinese alumina this year as China has been making rare exports of the aluminium raw material to cash in on a favourable arbitrage to international markets.

China’s alumina exports surged more than fivefold from August to more than 165,000 tonnes in September.

The newly available data showed Iceland imported 39,524 tonnes in September, while India took 36,721 tonnes, Malaysia 29,199 tonnes, Russia 28,133 tonnes and Cameroon 16,400 tonnes.