EXCLUSIVE: China will allow importers to apply for tariff exemption on US metal scrap, concentrates

Chinese imports from the US of products including metals concentrates and non-ferrous and ferrous scrap are eligible for two rounds of applications for exclusion from Chinese tariffs, according to a new policy document seen by Fastmarkets.

The document from the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council implies that some Chinese metals importers will be able to buy these products without paying tariffs of as much as 25%.

The first round of applications, which is open from June 3 to July 5, covers products that were included in the $16 billion of US products subjected to a tariff from August 23 last year.

This list includes US copper scrap. The US had been the leading exporter of copper scrap to China for 16 years until the introduction of the tariffs.

Chinese scrap importers have struggled to source scrap from other locations - such as Southeast Asia and Europe - over the past months. Major companies including Jiangxi Copper have reacted by establishing their own scrap operations in Malaysia to secure stable supply of high-quality scrap.

What products can be exempted?
Below is a list of metals products - all of which are currently subject to a tariff rate of 25% - for which an exemption can be applied in the first round of applications:

74040000 Copper scrap
75030000 Nickel scrap
76020000 Aluminum scrap
79020000 Zinc waste and scrap
80020000 Tin scrap
81019700 Tungsten scrap
81042000 Magnesium scrap
81060010 Unwrought bismuth, waste, powder
81083000 Titanium scrap
81093000 Zirconium scrap
81129210 Unwrought germanium
71129110 Gold and gold-coated scrap
71129210 Platinum and platinum-coated scrap
72041000 Cast iron scrap
72042100 Stainless steel scrap
72042900 Other alloy steel scrap
72043000 Tinned steel scrap
72044900 Other steel scrap
72045000 Scrap steel ingots for resmelting

The second round of applications for tariff exemption, which covers most of the metals concentrates, will run from September 2 to October 18. The list includes 5,207 products with tariffs of 5-25%. The tariff rate is 25% for the products below:

26030000 Copper ore and concentrate
26040000 Nickel ore and concentrate
26080000 Zinc ore and concentrate
26140000 Titanium ore and concentrate
26151000 Zirconium ore and concentrate
26159090 Other vanadium ore and concentrate
26169000 Other precious metal ores and concentrates

China’s imposition of import taxes on US copper concentrates forced consumers and traders to scramble to swap cargoes scheduled for delivery to Chinese ports in what was already a tight market.One European smelter purchased US-origin material at exceptionally high treatment charges (TCs) as a result, Fastmarkets understands.

The other major US metal products that could be exempted from the tariffs are:

20% 81019990 Other tungsten products
20% 78060090 Other lead products
20% 81029900 Molybdenum products
20% 81059000 Other cobalt and products
20% 81079000 Other cadmium and cadmium products
10% 26070000 Lead ore and concentrates

The imposition of a 10% tariff on all US lead concentrates imports into China sent shockwaves across the industry. China accounts for half of all US-origin lead concentrate exports; the tariff hit North American miners such as Doe Run Co and Teck Resources, both of which ship to the Chinese markets in significant volumes.

The new policy document lacks clarity in the eligibility criteria, which could complicate a full resumption of Sino-US metals flow, however.

It states that importers must use solid data and facts to prove that they have struggled to source the imported goods from other locations; the imposition of tariffs led to a serious economic loss; and the tariffs on those particular good have had a significantly negative impact on the industry as a whole, including technological advances, employment and the environmental impact. It does not go into further detail.

The relevant industry organizations will collect the applications before delivering them to the State Council.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.

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