Japan resets to weather the Asian steel tsunami

Oct 03, 2012 | 02:53 PM | Kaoru Okamoto, Takeo Aoyama, Toshiyuki Kawashima, Osamu (Jack) Koike, Koji Okabe

Tags  Kaoru Okamoto, Takeo Aoyama, Toshiyuki Kawashima, Osamu Koike, Koji Okabe, JFE Steel America, Nippon Steel, Nippon Steel USA Nisshin Steel USA

Forget everything you ever knew about the Japanese steel industry.

In the dozen years since the Asian financial crisis, the world economy and, more specifically, the epicenter of growth in global steel consumption has tilted to the East. The dramatic growth in steel consumption in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea present both an opportunity--and steep challenge--to Japan’s steelmakers, one that has forced the sector to rethink its competitive strategy as it relates to battling for market share on the industry’s home turf as well as doing business in North America.

In early September--and only weeks before the milestone merger of Nippon Steel Corp. and Sumitomo Metal Industries, representatives of the U.S.-based Japan Steel Information Center exchanged views with AMM Inner Circle on the depth of those changes and their influence on the future direction of their parent companies and the Japanese steel sector as a whole. Pull up a chair and join the discussion.

Inner Circle: Do you see evidence of a so-called “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States spurred by the game-changing attributes and energy economics of shale gas? Would such a resurgence change your thinking regarding the Japanese steel’s industry’s tilt toward Asia to pursue future growth?

JFE Steel’s Okamoto: Obviously low energy cost is a benefit. It is a benefit to the manufacturing base. But that is not the only cost input. One should try to look at this in a broader sense. But definitely a low energy input cost of any source is a benefit to the manufacturing sector.....

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