ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd. (ACL) is seeking duties on steel imports from China as the continent’s largest producer tries to return to profitability after posting three straight years of losses.

AMSA, as the Johannesburg-based unit of the world’s biggest maker of steel is known, applied for import tariffs on flat-steel products and may consider a similar request for long-steel items, Chief executive officer Paul O’Flaherty said in an interview. Flat steel, which includes hot- and cold-rolled coils, is used in vehicles, pipes and appliances while long products is used for buildings and large infrastructure projects.

“The applications have gone in and we’ll see where that goes,” he said. “In today’s economy, it’s a real challenge to fight a product that is subsidized.”

O’Flaherty, who was appointed 1 July to replace Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita as the permanent CEO of AMSA, is seeking to achieve AMSA’s first annual profit since 2010 as the company battles increases in electricity costs that exceed inflation, plant outages and weak demand in its domestic market. Steel prices in China and Europe have fallen more than 10% this year amid overcapacity, while the price of iron-ore, a key steelmaking ingredient, touched a five-year low last month.

AMSA is holding talks with the Industrial Development Corp. over the state-owned development financier’s plans to build a new steel plant in South Africa with China’s Hebei Iron & Steel Co. (000709), O’Flaherty said. The IDC, which has a 7.9% stake in AMSA, last month said the proposed $4.5 billion facility would produce 5mt (million tonnes) annually and would supplement AMSA’s capacity of 6mt a year.

Hebei will partner with the IDC to conduct a detailed feasibility study for a new steel plant, the lender said in a statement. South Africa “is not an 11mt steel country,” O’Flaherty said. “It is a threat obviously to us, but again we have to get our costs low, we have to be competitive and we have to take on competition.”