(Corrects paragraph one to make clear comparison is with 2012, not last year)
* Japan smelter offers $85 a tonne for 2013 vs $100 for 2012 * Top producer Codelco said to be mulling $105 a tonne
* Chinese buyers seen taking time to study market, place orders
By Yuko Inoue
TOKYO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Japan's biggest copper smelter, Pan Pacific Copper , is in talks with buyers in China to slash its term premium for 2013 shipments by 15 percent from this year, a source familiar with the matter said, as demand slows in the metal's top consumer.
The cut in premiums, to $85 a tonne paid over the London Metal Exchange copper price from $100 this year, is at the high end of expectations, as growth in China's manufacturing sector shows signs of steadying at a slower pace and demand prospects for copper remain murky.
"Chinese buyers are taking time to read the market and placing orders," said the source, who declined to be identified because the talks were not public.
"Their views on the market are mixed, with some expecting recovery in demand later this year, thanks to the government's stimulus measures."
China's imports of copper in August were its second lowest this year, falling 2.9 percent from July to 355,856 tonnes, as a slowdown in the global economy hit the country's manufacturing sector.
The premium was fixed at a sensible level, one analyst said.
"The copper market is looking tight as we head into the middle of the decade 2015 onwards, but at the moment, China is slowing and Europe is weak," said London-based analyst Leon Westgate at Standard Bank.
"All things considered, it's a pragmatic, sensible level."
He added, "Codelco is likely to be pitched a bit higher than that (because of extra transport, financing costs)."
Japanese suppliers, the world's third-biggest producer of copper, usually decide premiums with Chinese buyers before the world's No.1 producer, Codelco of Chile, begins talks with Chinese and European buyers.
Codelco will seek to cut 2013 physical copper premiums to Asian buyers by about $5 to around $105, while its European rate is likely to be held or trimmed by less, a source linked to the company told Reuters late last month.
Talks between Japanese suppliers and Chinese buyers have been delayed this year because of tensions between the two countries over a territorial dispute, a Chinese executive said.
Japan sold 147,006 tonnes of refined copper to China in the first eight months of the year, making it China's third-largest supplier of the construction material. Japan accounts for six percent of China's imports. .
To energise an economy mired in its worst slowdown in three years, China recently approved 60 infrastructure projects worth more than $150 billion, encouraging investors to hope the world's second-largest economy may get a lift in the fourth quarter and beyond.
But some industry sources have said the impact of the infrastructure projects could unfold over the next one to two years, producing minimal benefits in the fourth quarter.
Pan Pacific is a joint venture between JX Nippon Mining & Metals Corp and Mitsui Mining and Smelting .
(Additional reporting by Polly Yam in Hong Kong and Melanie Burton in Singapore,; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
Keywords: CHINA COPPER/PREMIUM