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Guest of the month
Dr. J. J. Irani
'Indian Steel Alliance' is an association of five giants of Indian flat steel sector, namely SAIL, TISCO, Jindal, Essar and Ispat. The group is being led by none other than Dr.J.J.Irani, ex MD of Tata Steels and a stalwart in steel industry. As we know, the present boom in exports has mainly triggered by the Chinese demand and India too has exported substantial quantities of HR to China. Similarly, with rising consumption and production, China is interested in importing iron ore from India on a large scale. Thus, in the view of these growing bilateral trade relations, a delegation to China led by ‘Indian Steel Alliance’ was a very important step from Indian side. It included V.S.Jain (Chairman,SAIL), B.Muthuraman, (MD, Tata Steels), J.Mehra (Director, Essar), representatives from its other members and also Mr.Digvijay Singh (Joint Secretary - Ministry of Steel). Following are the excerpts of Dr. Irani’s exclusive interview with our editor D. A. Chandekar after his return.
Q : What was the agenda of your recent delegation to China ?
A : Members of the Indian Steel Alliance (ISA) had a close interaction with their counterparts of the Chinese Iron & Steel Association (CISA). At a Roundtable meeting in Beijing on 17th October, there was a free exchange of views from both sides. The subject of iron ore exports to China was of great interest to the Chinese steel makers. Equally, the matter of steel exports from India to China, particularly of the hot-rolled and cold-rolled coils was discussed in detail.
Q : How the issue of iron ore exports was addressed in the discussions ?
A : The Chinese delegates wanted long term contracts for the export of iron ore to their country. The representative of the Ministry of Steel, Government of India, mentioned that this was possible, and discussions would have to be held with the NMDC in Delhi. No timeline or quantity to be contracted was fixed. It was made clear that India has exported iron ore to several countries in the past and is continuing to do so, largely to South Korea and to Japan. The requirements of China would have to be planned and dovetailed into the Indian iron ore export programme.
Q : What was discussed about Indian HR exports to China ?
A : The Chinese expressed their concern at the sharp increase in the export of flat products from India to China. During the current year, the figure has already touched 1.5 million tonnes and before the calendar year ends, it is likely to be around 2 million tonnes. This was a sharp increase over the earlier year. The Indian side pointed out that the capacity of Indian plants would largely be consumed in the domestic market which is also expanding at a healthy rate. Therefore, the Chinese steel makers need not look upon Indian products as a threat in their domestic market.
Q : How is the Chinese steel production and consumption growing ?
A : It is confidently expected that China will use over 220 million tonnes of steel during the current year, out of which over 30 million tonnes would be imported. They also expect an increase of around 20 to 25 million tonnes per year till the overall consumption in China reaches around 300 million tonnes in the next 4 or 5 years. The Chinese steel industry is also expanding capacity to meet with the increased demand of steel in their country.
Q : What are your overall impressions about the visit and the deliberations in China ?
A : The Indian delegation came away with the view that the Chinese would not take any strong action against the imports of India as long as the recently noticed spurt in exports from India into China was held in check in the future months. There was a very cordial atmosphere in the discussions which ended up with setting up of a ‘working group’ between the two associations. Members on the working group have been nominated by China and will soon be nominated from the Indian side also.