* China steel assn strongly opposes protectionism
* Surging steel exports driven by demand and competitiveness (Adds background)
SHANGHAI, May 24 (Reuters) - China, the world’s top steel producer, is not encouraging large exports of the product and has taken measures to control shipments offshore, the country’s steel association said on Tuesday.
“The Chinese steel industry is willing to solve trade disputes through cooperation ... it strongly opposes protectionism and making the steel trade a political issue,” the China Iron & Steel Association (CISA) said in a report on its website.
CISA said a rise in Chinese steel exports has been driven by a recovering global economy, rising international demand and higher competitiveness. It said the government has taken measures such as increasing export duties on some steel products and cutting export rebates.
China exported a record of 112 million tonnes of steel last year, despite the cancellation of tax rebates on boron steel, as the country’s producers aimed to offset a slowing domestic economy and waning demand that drove prices down by 36 percent during 2015.
Global steel producing rivals have alleged China is dumping cheap exports after a slowdown in demand at home, creating a major trade irritant amid a worldwide steel glut.
“The steel overcapacity is a global issue,” CISA said, adding that the global capacity utilization rate was 69.7 percent in 2015 compared with China’s rate of 71.2 percent.
The United States slapped Chinese steelmakers with final import duties of 522 percent on cold-rolled flat steel on Tuesday after finding their products were being sold in the U.S. market below cost and with unfair subsidies.
However, China’s Commerce Ministry said Saturday that U.S. efforts to protect its steel industry will not solve the sector’s fundamental problems, which stem from past protectionist measures.
China currently has an annual crude steel capacity of 1.13 billion tonnes and has aimed to streamline its bloated steel sector by cutting between 100 million and 150 million tonnes per year of capacity by 2020.
China has shut more than 90 million tonnes of capacity for 2011-15, CISA added. (Reporting by Ruby Lian and David Stanway; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger)