Global stainless steel production reflects the shift in relative size and influence between the world’s established and developing economies. China’s crude stainless steel output has grown almost five-fold, since 2006, to represent close to 55 percent of the worldwide total, in 2016. In that year, India overtook Japan, to become the world’s second-largest stainless steel producer.
Indian stainless steel output continues to expand at a rate of 8 to 9 percent, year-on-year. It is expected to reach 4 million tonnes, in 2018. This growth is supported by increasing domestic demand from the automotive sector, as well as housebuilding and infrastructure. If the country’s production capacity outpaces its internal consumption, the need to cultivate export markets will arise. In this endeavour, it will face the task of all unfamiliar suppliers – to convince customers, particularly in the West, that its product quality is acceptable.
China is several steps ahead of India on this journey. Its stainless steelmaking capabilities have increased immensely, over the past two decades. Output overtook domestic consumption several years ago, forcing Chinese producers to seek overseas customers. In the face of global competition and a widespread economic slowdown, Chinese sellers cut their prices, in an effort to secure sales. This led to antidumping charges – and punitive tariffs, or duties – being applied by many countries, against Chinese imports.
The recently announced joint venture between China’s Tsingshan Group and the US producer, ATI, will, subject to regulatory clearance, allow the former party to ship slabs to the USA, for rolling and further processing. The resulting cold rolled sheets will then be sold, by ATI, as, effectively, a domestic product. We should expect this model to become more widespread as cost-effective stainless steel output expands, in the developing world.