U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday discussed by telephone the global glut in steel supply, which many blame on chronic overcapacity at Chinese producers of the construction material.
China’s steel production hit a record high earlier this year as rising prices, and profits, encouraged mills that had been shut or suspended to resume output.
“The two leaders … discussed the need to work together to address the global glut in steel,” the White House said in a statement, adding that the conversation covered a wide range of economic and defense issues.
China, the world’s top steel producer and exporter, is also the fifth-largest importer of steel, buying an equivalent of 13.57 million tonnes of crude steel last year.
Last month, China and other major steel producers failed to agree on measures to tackle the overcapacity crisis, prompting the United States, European Union and others to call for urgent action.
China plans to shed 100-150 million tonnes of domestic crude steel capacity in the next five years in a bid to help tackle huge capacity overhangs that have saddled domestic firms with losses and debts.
Turnbull said that he had raised the issue with top Chinese officials and that while he welcomed their commitment, more than “strong intentions” were needed.
“Now, the President and I have agreed that Australia and the U.S. will intensify our collaboration to ensure that the overproduction of steel is addressed,” Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne.
“We need to address this issue because it is important that the viability of steel makers in our country, and in the U.S. and other nations, is preserved and not undermined by the exporting or the dumping of very cheap steel made in places where it is being produced at way below the real cost.”
Chinese officials have said that they are already taking sufficient steps to curb capacity, while state news said blaming China for the global steel industry crisis was a lazy excuse for protectionism that would be counter-productive.