China was the top foreign buyer of Indian steel between April and September, government data showed on Wednesday, marking a rare rise in bilateral economic activity at a time of political tensions that have triggered some trade curbs.
China bought 1.9 million tonnes, cornering 29% of India’s finished steel exports, which hit their highest in at least six years at 6.5 million tonnes, the provisional data analysed by Reuters showed.
With the Indian economy contracting because of the coronavirus pandemic, domestic demand for steel has been weak, and producers have been offloading their surpluses to Chinese buyers.
China, the world’s top steel consumer, has bucked the COVID-linked trend of sluggish global demand, supported by economic stimulus such as infrastructure investments.
The two countries are locked in their most serious military stand-off in decades, after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in June in clashes at their disputed Himalayan border.
New Delhi has also introduced curbs aimed at Chinese investments, but the measures do not affect Indian exports.
During April-September, India’s overseas shipments of steel were primarily hot-rolled coils, a flat steel product used to make pipes, automobile parts, engineering and military equipment.
China and Vietnam together purchased just over 75% of Indian hot-rolled coils, of the overall 4.49 million tonnes exported, data showed.
Indian steel consumption fell to its lowest in at least six years during April-September at 35.86 million tonnes, while finished steel production also fell, by 25%, to 38.6 million tonnes.