BEIJING, April 11 (Reuters) - China wants to work with the rest of the world to find an appropriate resolution to overcapacity in the steel sector, its foreign ministry said on Monday, after Britain asked the world’s top producer of the alloy to hurry up and tackle the problem.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond made the request while meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing on Saturday.
A huge overcapacity and weak demand has prompted China, also the world’s top steel consumer, to ramp up exports to record highs, dragging down global prices of the commodity to decade lows. Britain is hoping to stem this flood of cheap supply, which India’s Tata Steel has blamed for its decision to pull out of the United Kingdom, putting 15,000 jobs at risk.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing that steel overcapacity was a global problem caused by declining demand and said Hammond and Wang had talked about how to effectively address it.
“At this meeting the Chinese side also highly appraised the long-term British policy of open free trade and said we are willing to work with the international community, including Britain, to appropriately resolve this issue via international cooperation,” Lu added.
He did not elaborate.
China makes half of the world’s steel and produced 803.8 million tonnes in 2015. That was almost eight times the output of Japan, the No. 2 producer, and nearly 20 times Germany’s.
China’s production capacity is far bigger at 1.13 billion tonnes and it exported a record 112 million tonnes last year.
The country needs to step up efforts to shut down poorly performing mills, a government official has said.
Tata put its entire UK business up for sale last month, including its flagship production plant at Port Talbot in south Wales, saying it could no longer endure mounting losses caused by increased shipments to Europe from countries like China, high manufacturing costs and domestic market weakness. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Himani Sarkar)