The global economic crisis which began at the end of 2008 is still overshading the iron and steel industry in a great number of countries in the world. The recession is still going on in North America in spite of the slight improvement occurring to the steel industry during the second half of 2010. This situation has also extended and reached many European Union countries. The industry in the countries of Latin America has witnessed a remarkable improvement during 2010. This improvement is expected to continue for several years to come because of the infrastructure projects undertaken by the governments of these countries. With regard to the Asian countries, in particular India and China the demand for steel products has seen an unprecedented rise, especially in the second quarter of 2010: China has produced more than 500 million tonnes of steel during 2010. Recently, China has announced that the 2011׳s production plan will exceed 650 million tonnes, that is, more than half of the world production during 2010.
As far as the Arab region is concerned, this region has seen during 2010 a substantial recovery in the growing demand for the steel products. The economies of the Arab countries have not been much affected by the global economic crisis. The statistics of the crude steel production in the Arab countries have shown a production of 15,656 million tonnes during 2010, while the production achieved in 2009 was about 13 million tonnes of crude steel, that is, up by approximately 15% over the production of 2009. The demand for the finished steel products in the Arab countries during 2010 exceeded 25 million tonnes of various steel products. The gap between production and consumption has been covered by imports from abroad. The continued rise of the oil prices in the last period has encouraged the Arab governments to go on with the infrastructure and construction projects.
In general, the Arab region always witnesses growth in its national projects in parallel with the rise of the oil prices. Therefore, the continued rise of the oil prices will in turn result in a rising demand for the steel products and rising investment rates in this industry to cover the requirements of the Arab markets of these products.
As regards the prices of the steel products, they are linked to a set of factors the most important of which are the ore prices such as the iron ore, scrap, coal, energy and ocean freight. Likewise, the increasing demand rates for the iron and steel products have, according to 2010׳s data, shown a relative rise of the prices of the inputs of the iron and steel industry. This demand uptrend has been expected to continue for the steel products in the Arab countries during 2011. However, the recent turmoil which has taken place in a number of the Arab countries , such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen in addition to labor problems in some other Arab countries such as Algeria and Jordan, considering that some other Arab countries are keenly keeping an eye on the situation and its consequences, and would wait for the convenient opportunity to demand improving the living conditions, increasing wages and eliminating unemployment, all these factors may lead the governments to change their strategies by limiting the infrastructure projects and diverting the investments allocated for them to other investment which help improve the living conditions of their citizens. Studies in one of the Arab countries which have witnessed turmoils during the last period has indicated that the infrastructure projects may drop by 30% from what has been decided for them, limiting the demand for the steel products for a certain period of time until stability is restored to its normal course. The Arab Iron and Steel Union says that the current conditions – until the turmoils breaking out in some Arab countries come to end as soon as possible, will push the Arab governments to stop imports of the iron and steel products at the present time.
On the other hand, the Arab governments have to promote the trade activity of the steel products among all the Arab countries . There is also an imperative necessity for the Arab governments to remove the customs barriers between the Arab countries , activate the common Arab cooperation and realize the Arab dream of the Arab common market. No more time and no more space have been left to delay these actions in order for the Arab steel mills to go on with achieving the planned production rates and provide jobs and limit unemployment in the Arab countries.
The final and important point is the necessity to be cautious in the next period against the expected invasion of foreign steel products from countries outside of the Arab countries. Therefore, we must fight against dumping in every possible means to maintain the Arab steel industry and the investments planned in this industry so that the Arab countries may ensure the continued running of the recovery wheel of this industry and make the Arab steel industry the leading and pioneering industry for all other industries.