June 21, 2019 / 10:50 AM / 4 months ago

India steel ministry seeks higher duties to deter Chinese imports -document

* Seeks immediate increase in import duty on finished steel to 15%

* Seeks increase in peak import duty on all steel products to 25%

* Says U.S.-China trade war threatens India with Chinese imports

By Neha Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 21 (Reuters) - India's steel ministry has sought an immediate increase in import duties on finished steel products to 15% from a range of 7.5% to 12.5%, citing a threat from Chinese imports and excess global capacity, an internal note reviewed by Reuters showed.

The steel ministry has proposed the higher duties as part of its recommendations to the finance ministry for the upcoming 2019/20 budget that is due out on July 5.

"The U.S.-China trade war is threatening Indian markets as China looks for alternative markets" for its steel exports, India's steel ministry said.

Citing the vulnerability of local mills, the ministry said the nation's steel sector needs "protection from unfairly traded cheap steel imports" as well as lower input costs.

"Peak rates (for all steel products) may be raised to 25% to meet any contingency arising from potential adverse global market turmoil," it said.

Existing anti-dumping and countervailing duties have been rendered ineffective by the volatility in steel prices, the ministry said.

The steel ministry said government revenues could increase by 13.66 billion rupees ($196.1 million) if the import duties were implemented, although it is the finance ministry that makes the final decision.

The steel and finance ministries did not immediately reply to Reuters emails seeking comment.

India turned from net exporter to net importer of steel during the 2018/19 fiscal year as local demand increased and imports jumped from Japan, Korea and China.

Japan, South Korea and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which all have free trade agreements on steel with India, accounted for 58% of its imports of the alloy, while 18% of its incoming steel came from China.

Reuters previously reported that India feared Chinese steel flooding its markets as fallout from Beijing's escalating trade war with Washington.

Over 50% of India's imports of wire rods and bars - both long steel products used in construction - came from China last year, government data showed.

India's top four steelmakers - JSW Steel Ltd, Tata Steel Ltd, state-owned Steel Authority of India Ltd and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd - together control over 45% of India's total steel production. The producers have been complaining about steel being dumped into India for the last several months.

India's steel ministry has also sought cuts to import duties on coking coal, steel scrap and graphite electrodes to reduce raw material costs for making steel.

$1 = 69.6650 Indian rupees Reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Gavin Maguire and Tom Hogue

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