China hikes Aluminium tariffs but export boom already over

China raised export tariffs on unwrought primary aluminium and alloy at the start of this year after a rare burst of export activity in the first part of 2022.

The country, which was a huge importer of unwrought aluminium in both 2020 and 2021, briefly emerged as supplier of last resort, particularly to Europe, where multiple smelters curtailed operations due to high power prices.

The tariff increases fit with China’s long-standing policy of encouraging exports of value-add aluminium products rather than raw metal.

But it’s doubtful they would have made much difference to last year’s rare trade inversion and they already look slightly redundant. Exports evaporated and imports surged again over the second half of 2022.

Russian aluminium dominated the import mix and Russian smelters were the main recipients of Chinese alumina exports last year.

The two countries appear to be forging a new aluminium alliance.

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