India proposes 20% Steel Import Duty as surge hurts local mills

10 September 2015

A unit of India’s finance ministry recommended imposing a temporary 20 percent duty on certain steel products to arrest a surge in lower-priced imports.

The Director General of Safeguards Wednesday recommended levying the duty for 200 days on certain flat steel products, including hot-rolled coil used in making cars and appliances, after probing claims that cheaper imports are hurting local mills. The proposal now needs approval from the government’s Board of Safeguards, and the finance ministry then will take a final decision.

This is the third government step since June to protect the steel industry. Last month, India raised the import tax on some products, which the industry said at that time wouldn’t be enough to stem inbound shipments. Steel imports jumped 51 percent to 4.5 million tons in the five months ended Aug. 31, even as local demand grew 4.6 percent during the period, according to government data.

“This is a big positive step,” said Goutam Chakraborty, a Mumbai-based analyst at Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd. “If accepted, this action will help in cutting imports from countries, including Japan and South Korea, that have free trade pacts with us.”

JSW Steel Ltd. climbed 4.1 percent to 981.55 rupees in Mumbai trading Wednesday. Tata Steel advanced 4.7 percent to 239.50 rupees, and Steel Authority of India Ltd. rose 4.8 percent to 54.10 rupees. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex ended 1.6 percent higher.

China’s devaluation of the yuan in August has stoked concerns that the country will continue to boost exports of the alloy, flooding the Indian market and depressing domestic prices. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Wednesday that the government is examining other steps to check dumping of steel. The Indian steel industry is struggling with high debt levels as producers compete with cheaper imports.

Domestic steel producers Steel Authority of India Ltd., Essar Steel Ltd. and JSW Steel Ltd. had requested the imposition of safeguard measures for four years, the Directorate of Safeguards said on Sept. 7. Director General Vinay Chhabra said that the safeguards agency had initiated an investigation in the matter after it found that increased imports of hot-rolled flat coils were threatening domestic producers.

India raised the import tax on certain steel products to 12.5 percent from 10 percent on Aug. 12. The government imposed some anti-dumping duties in June.