Chinas dominance in the metals markets is certainly proof of this and cannot be underestimated. Its market supremacy was responsible for the huge surge in ferrous scrap prices during the first few months of the year and its withdrawal from the market has pushed prices down again.
With this in mind, the Bureau of International Recyclings (BIRs) non-ferrous metal division has released a common position supporting the free and uninhibited movement of scrap material throughout the world at its convention in Berlin last month.
Senior vice-president of US-based Alter Trading Robert Stein said scrap material movement should be unencumbered by export controls. In recognition of the social, economic and environmental benefits of recycling, we denounce all attempts by governments, special interest groups or trade organisations to implement export controls for scrap materials.
We call on importing nations to end import taxes, duties or subsidies that are detrimental to the free and fair trade of our material.
Björn Grufman of Swedens MV Metallvärden added that his own organisation opposed any unilateral initiative intending to impose arbitrary export controls on non-ferrous metal scrap.
Special division Eurometrec recommended that the European Union and the World Trade Organization (WTO) take an urgent look at the various unfair trade, fiscal and environmental measures which distort the world non-ferrous metals market.
Peaks and troughs were also now a common feature for this world-traded commodity.
In his market overview non-ferrous metal division president Marc Natan of Frances Malco spoke of the long-forgotten peaks achieved by ferrous and non-ferrous metal prices in the six months to March this year.
Cycles within the non-ferrous market were becoming more rapid and inconsistent, he added.
Natan said he expected three major questions to dominate the non-ferrous metals trade during the remainder of 2004:
l Would the US experience a lasting pick-up in employment levels?
l Would there be an end to the appreciation of the euro?
l And would China manage to avoid a boom-and-bust scenario?
Although most of global consumption headlines were currently claimed by China, Natan reminded delegates that India was also a real giant in terms of consumption potential.
Non-ferrous metal divisions general delegate Hans-Peter Münster of Germanys VDM foresaw volatile market conditions in the weeks following the BIR convention. And with China buying at reduced levels, more material was available in Europe and therefore suppliers had been re-discovering their traditional customers.
He also noted that discussions between Russia and the EU about the possibility of lifting the formers tariffs on scrap had yet to bear fruit.
Ildar Neverov of Russias Teplovtorresource said administrative scrap export barriers should be removed in order for Russia to enter the WTO. He highlighted the need for significant improvements in the regulations currently applied to the non-ferrous scrap industry in Russia, which he described as a rapidly developing area of the economy.
Shortages of scrap brass were also discussed. Guest presenter Lothar Krumbügel of Germanys Diehl Metall Stiftung & Co blamed subsidies in China for the creation of a major raw materials shortage among western European brass mills.
The authorities had been asked to take action to safeguard raw material supply in Europe but, if they failed so to do, the metal industry will have to find its own way of securing its supply, he warned. Bigger companies are perfectly well placed to directly contact the scrap generating industry. u