Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Dwindling Steel Shipments Undercut Trump’s China Gripe

Updated on
  • Monthly shipments sink to lowest since ‘14 amid clean-air push
  • U.S. president had targeted mainland exports during campaign

Just hours before the U.S. president set foot in China, the world’s largest steel producer announced exports have dwindled to the lowest in years, undercutting a repeated gripe from Donald Trump that lit up his campaign and spilled over into his rhetoric in office.

Exports from the country that accounts for half of global production dropped to 4.98 million tons last month, down from September’s 5.14 million, and the lowest since 2014, according to customs figures. That’s a far cry from the monthly peak in late 2015, when they exceeded 11 million tons.

Before he took office, candidate Trump frequently took aim at China’s mammoth steel industry, holding it up as an example of unfair competition. As recently as June, Trump told an audience in Cincinnati, Ohio: “Wait’ll you see what I’m going to do for steel and for your steel companies.” He added: “We’re going to stop the dumping and stop all of these wonderful other countries from coming in and killing our companies and our workers.”

The force behind the slump in steel exports has been policy makers’ desire to clean up the environment, a theme touted by President Xi Jinping in his address to a twice-a-decade congress last month, as well as to press home a long-standing campaign to curb overcapacity.

China has ordered a swath of mills to cut output. In a sign of the clampdown’s impact, steel production -- which had been running at a record pace -- slumped in September to the lowest in at least six months. Investors will get an update next week, when China releases factory data for October.

Before then, Trump should enjoy blue skies above Beijing.

— With assistance by Jake Lloyd-Smith

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE