Imported steel gets a closer look

Imported steel gets a closer look

Officials inspect imported steel products at Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri.  TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
Officials inspect imported steel products at Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri.  TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

The Customs Department is implementing a stringent measure to prevent tax evasion and smuggling of low-quality steel into Thailand.

The department will set up an inspection team to examine imported goods, particularly steel, which requires a team with knowledge and expertise on the issue, said customs director-general Kulit Sombatsiri.

The department will buy equipment to inspect steel more efficiently, said Mr Kulit.

There is a need for constantly updated information on the steel industry because of the fast pace of technological changes and greater sophistication of smuggling, he said.

Such technological processes include adding boron, a chemical element, to steel to increase its quality and in turn pay a lower import duty, said Mr Kulit. This process is not standardised.

Importing substandard steel is perilous as it could be used for building construction, resulting in structural collapse, he said.

The department has confiscated steel and filed eight lawsuits against steel importers because of false customs declaration.

In May, the department seized 9.62 million baht worth of steel pipes from SET-listed Samchai Steel Industries Plc, alleging the company had been running a duties refund scam.

Customs officials impounded 15 trucks loaded with steel pipes, claiming that Samchai Stee had made fraudulent imports and exports to obtain refund of customs duties.

Domestic steel manufacturers have been asking the government to protect Thailand's steel industry after Chinese steelmakers, which have an annual production capacity of 800 million tonnes, have dumped artificially cheap steels on the Thai market, subsequently undercutting local steel suppliers, said Mr Kulit.

Between January and August, 64,000 tonnes of prefabricated steel was imported from Chinese steelmakers who took an advantage of a customs clearance loophole through an import exemption set by the Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI).

The Chinese government also offers a 9% export tax rebate for the country's exporters, allowing Chinese steel to be sold cheaply on the global market.

Domestic steel manufacturers have requested TISI to make a standard assessment on prefabricated steels, said Mr Kulit.

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