China waived off tariffs on metal scrap imports from the US on Feb 18, in response to the phase one negotiation between the two countries. Import of copper scrap from the US attracted a tariff of 25pc and 50pc on aluminium scrap. These tariff reliefs will be undermined by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in the near term.
Exemptions on import duties on the US-origin copper and aluminium scrap may not result in a significant increase in import shipments at least until the coronavirus epidemic subsides and China’s metal demand recovers. Consumption has lowered significantly because of disruption of logistics, labour flows and economic activities.
In 2018, China’s had imposed taxes on metal scrap imports from the US amid the US-China trade war. Also, as a measure against pollution, the Chinese government aims to lower solid waste imports to nil by the end of 2020. The government has introduced strict quotas for metal scrap imports since July 2019. However, China has plans to re-categorise high-grade copper and aluminium scrap (exclude them from hazardous solid waste) to help domestic metals industries which are dependent on scrap imports.
Since the beginning of the year, China has announced three import quotas. China imported 89,287mt copper scrap from the US in 2019, up six-folds from 2017. Chinese imports of aluminium scrap fell by 38pc in the same period, according to official customs data.