Berlin - Some 250 international steel executives were gathering Sunday in the German capital Berlin as friction with China grew over alleged dumping of some grades of Chinese-made steel. Ekkehard Schulz, chief executive of Germany's biggest steelmaker, ThyssenKrupp, told reporters one day before Monday and Tuesday's 41st world steel conference, "We have got a structural problem with China. Only the politicians can settle it."
Other European makers have already demanded that the European Union penalize imports from China, either by setting quotas or imposing duties.
On Saturday, Wolfgang Leese, chief executive of Salzgitter, said Germany's number-two steel group would back a complaint by European steelmaking federation Eurofer to the EU over the Chinese imports.
Among those to attend the Berlin meeting was Lakshmi Mittal, head of the world's biggest maker, Arcelor Mittal.
Overall, world steel prices are strong and world production continues to rise, but many in the industry are concerned at sharp growth in Chinese exports, arguing that some of the sales are at below the feasible production cost.
Dieter Ameling, president of the German Steel Business Association, said one way they could do so was by receiving state subsidies and the other was by skipping anti-pollution costs.
He said 95 per cent of Chinese mills were state-owned. He said Chinese steel exports were likely to hit 10 million tons this year, doubling the level of last year.
A ThyssenKrupp executive, Karl-Ulrich Koehler, said the output surge was the effect of construction of new mills while old polluting plants were not being shut down as Beijing had said they would.
"Now that overcapacity has taken hold in China, the steel prices there have fallen sharply and the exporters are looking for markets that will offer them higher prices than they can obtain at home," Koehler said.
Ameling said demand for steel in Germany was forecast to grow 1.5 per cent in 2008. The German steel makers set an output record this year of 48.6 million tons. Ameling added, "The foundations for robust steel sales remain in place."