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It exported 1.556 million tonnes of finished steel over the first three months of the year, which accounted for 14.27% of its total output during the period, according to a post on the China Iron & Steel Assn website on Wednesday April 30.

The jump in the steelmaker’s exports could have been supported by its strategic partnership with steel trader Duferco, industry sources suggested.

Hebei Steel said in its annual report published on Tuesday April 29 that it optimised its export product structure and expanded its overseas market share through cooperation with the leading international company. It exported a total of 3.66 million tonnes of finished steel in 2013 and has signed a 4-million-tonne export contract with Duferco for this year.

Tangshan Iron & Steel, a subsidiary of Hebei Steel, became a 10% shareholder of Duferco in March 2013, and signed a $1.2-billion steel exports agreement with the trading company.