Forces of Economic Change in the Asian Steel Industry
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Steel consumption in Asian countries other than Japan will continue to grow at a relatively rapid rate. But the absolute growth measured in tons will be large compared with industrialized regions. In addition, the growth rate of the production of steel in Asia will keep pace with the growth rate in consumption, and Australia has the potential to become an important supplier of steel to Asian nations. Japanese planners have anticipated these developments, and there appears to be a definite effort on their part to participate in new steelmaking ventures (via loans, technical assistance, and particularly equipment sales) and to attach increasing importance to indirect steel exports.
The Japanese steel industry has become very strong and very competitive, especially the segment composed of large producers. Expansion of production facilities and research and development efforts show no letup. The rapid growth of steel consumption in Japan is likely to continue, but the timing and the magnitude of the inevitable reduction in the rate of growth is a matter of conjecture.
Japanese steelmen can weather temporary interruptions in the growth of demand because of a system that permits export cartels, agreements on capital expenditure allocations among producers, complete freedom in pricing, and a lack of pressure by stockholder groups.
There is considerable publicity concerning a substantial over-capacity in world steelmaking capacity. The measurement of capacity may or may not be accurate, and documenting the portion that represents a dangerous surplus would be difficult if not impossible. Thus, it is easy to view with alarm the continued vigorous expansion of Japanese steelmaking capacity. It is virtually certain to be increasingly troublesome to other major steel-producing countries in the future. an
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