The International Steel Trade Association (ISTA) has confirmed it will investigate allegations questioning the performance and conformity of Chinese steel imports.

ISTA has formed a sub-committee to examine the claims by steel trade associations relating to Chinese rebar and structural steel products, although it said the allegations were not supported by many of its members.

The sub-committee is being formed following a safety warning from trade body UK Steel, which said that some steel products imported to the UK from China might not be fully compliant with relevant standards.

ISTA said that the allegations over steel quality might be an attempt at indirect restriction of free trade and competition. It added that it would consult its members and their customers on the issue, and work with relevant standards bodies to examine the allegations.

The ISTA sub-committee said uncertainty over these claims could have potential effects on the wider industry.

UK Steel said Chinese reinforcing steel sold in the UK had small amounts of other elements added to it order to classify it as an alloy – which would then qualify it for an export tax rebate.

In its annual report, UK Steel said that between 2013 and the end of 2014, China moved from having no presence in the UK to taking 37% of the rebar market in the fourth quarter of 2014.

UK Steel said it had raised the issue of with the European Commission over claims that Chinese rebar was being declared as a tax-exempt alloy metal rather than as carbon steel.

UK Steel also complained to the UK Certification Authority for Reinforcing Steels (CARES) about the Chinese material in circulation within the UK, which it claimed did not meet CARES traceability standards. UK Steel said that CARES had now introduced new measures applying to importers and traders.

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