July 21, 2008

Steel Standards Remain Despite Price Complaints

By Vichaya Pitsuwan, Bangkok Post, Thailand

Jul. 21--The Thailand Industrial Standards Institute (TISI) says it will maintain the country's steel import standards in order to ensure public safety.

The TISI held two public hearings last month at which most participants said it was better to keep high steel import standards rather than open the market wider for imported products, said Pairoj Sanyadechakul, the institute's secretary-general.

The local construction industry had been calling for eased standards in the face of sharp increases in local steel prices, as well as a shortage of raw materials, notably billet and scrap.

Contractors, steel importers and processed steel exporters had asked TISI to allow the imports of different grades of steel to ease supply constraints.

Steel prices have risen by 65 percent in the first six months of this year, along with other commodity goods for which prices are skyrocketing, driven by oil prices and a shift by big investors from stock markets to commodities.

A TISI committee chaired by Issara Chotburakarn, the Industry Ministry's deputy permanent secretary, concluded that high standards were needed to block the entry of low-quality steel, which could contribute to lower quality of construction work or even public safety problems.Payungsak Chartsutipol, president of the Steel Industry Club of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said he supported the TISI's conclusion.

"Steel standards need to be maintained as public safety needs to come first," Mr Payungsak said.

The Council of Engineers and the Engineering Institute agreed with the FTI.

However, Mr Pairoj said TISI was reviewing methods to shorten steel importing procedures as it might be a way to help ease a domestic shortage.

"In cases where the domestic steel market faces a shortage, some temporary measures to make steel imports faster will be implemented, but this will be considered by the committee on a case-by-case basis," he said.


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