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Why you shouldn’t complain about China ‘steel dumping’ and make friends instead

China's "steel dumping" has antagonized Europe and the U.S., but a senior figure at one giant mining company preferred to encourage the country's still-high demand for metals and alloys rather than blame it for low prices.

The world's second-biggest economy is under fire for oversupplying the market with very cheap base metals, and steel in particular — a similar criticism to the one leveled at Saudi Arabia for maintaining high oil output despite the slump in crude prices.

The U.S. has hit China with massive dumping penalties of over 200 percent and the European Commission (the executive wing of the European Union) has launched an inquiry into Chinese subsidies for steel. This comes after India's Tata Steel decided to pull out of the U.K., indirectly threatening 40,000 jobs, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

However, the senior vice president of Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel Group took a different line on the issue on Tuesday.


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Andrei Bougrov told CNBC it was better to embrace China's demand for metals by partnering with it on projects, rather than to decry its perceived role in lowering prices.

"They (Chinese) are a competitor, but at the same time they are very good neighbors and we are blessed by having a neighbor like that, with a lot of ambitious programs for purchase of base metals," the Moscow-educated executive told CNBC on Tuesday.

"They (the Chinese) do buy nickel and copper and some other stuff — but we don't feel that competition as being bitter or lethal, particularly against the backdrop of a slowdown in the Chinese economy."

Norilsk Nickel Group claims to be the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium and one of the leading miners of platinum and copper. It also produces silver and gold.

The company has agreed to sell a 13 percent stake in a Siberian copper project to a consortium of Chinese investors as it streamlines its operations. It is also in talks with China about other projects.

"It will take probably another year or two before you would be really seeing signs of recovery (in the Chinese economy) and coming back to previous levels. Whilst we are waiting for that, of course watching very closely, we are inviting them to become our equity partners," Bougrov said.

"You don't choose your neighbors, right, so you have to be friends," he added separately.

Norilsk held its annual strategy day on Tuesday and reported it had released $3 billion of unproductive capital over the last three years.

The company, which trades on the Moscow stock exchange, has begun purchasing palladium with the intention of reducing price volatility, the Financial Times newspaper reported on the same day.

The silvery-white metal, which is largely used in catalytic converters, has rallied 5 percent his year, with dips in February and March.

Norilsk's Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place on June 10 in Moscow.

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