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US extends limits on steel plate imports
( 2003-08-20 14:49) (eastday.com.cn)

An independent US trade agency voted to extend limits on imports of steel plate from China, Russia and the Ukraine, acting on a request from Nucor Corp and other producers to shelter a US$2 billion American market.

The International Trade Commission in Washington voted 4-0 that removing the tariffs would hurt the US industry, letting import caps and minimum prices in place since 1997 continue for five years. Plate is used in bridges, pipes and trucks.

Companies say they are pursuing restrictions on specific categories of steel such as plate because the World Trade Organization has ruled against a separate US program, implemented last year, to protect the entire industry. Plate made up about US$250 million of US$12 billion in steel imports last year.

The Bush administration raised tariffs on steel products by as much as 30 percent last year, prompting the European Union, China, Japan and other steel-producing countries to lodge WTO complaints.

In September, Bush must decide whether to continue the global steel tariffs. The US has already exempted a quarter of the 13 million tons of steel originally covered by the tariffs when they were imposed in March 2002.

Last week the US appealed an initial WTO ruling that said the duties on steel must go.

The vote by the US trade commission yesterday means the curbs on plate imports will stay in place for an additional five years. The existing program cut imports from the four countries to 1.5 percent of total US consumption from 7.2 percent in 1997, according to an agency staff report.

Since the imports from China, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine were capped, the 16 US manufacturers have gained a greater share of the market and now control 89 percent of it. The market as a whole has shrunk from US$3 billion in 1997 to US$2 billion in 2002, the agency said.

Imports from countries not covered by the program have grown 50 percent since 1997, according to a commission report.

Even without that challenge, the tariffs will be reduced to 18 percent in 2003 and be lifted altogether by March 2004. And the tariffs didn't keep imports from increasing 4.8 percent in 2002 to US$12.1 billion.

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