NEW YORK (CNNfn) - The glutted and much beleaguered U.S. steel industry may be in for some relief. U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley said Monday Russia had reached tentative agreement with the United States to cut imports of Russian steel mill products by almost 70 percent.
"These agreements deliver on the Administration's commitment to respond vigorously to the surge in imports that has threatened the livelihoods of communities and workers around the nation," Daley said.
Russia has agreed to reduce exports to the U.S. of its hot-rolled steel products to 1996 levels and decrease exports of its other steel products to 1997 levels, the Commerce Department said.
In return, the United States has agreed to suspend an anti-dumping investigation of hot-rolled steel imports. The department has already issued a preliminary determination in that case and set preliminary duties ranging from 71 percent to 218 percent. Those duties, however, will be suspended when the deal becomes final.
The department also said as part of the agreement the United States will work with the Russian Ministry of Trade to "assist the Russian government and business communities to eliminate unfair trade practices."
"All these actions are intended to provide much-needed relief to the U.S. steel industry and workers, who have faced dramatic surges in unfairly traded imports over the past year," Daley said.
Under the agreement, the annual quota for Russian hot-rolled steel will be 750,000 tons per year, about 78 percent below 1998 import levels. The proposed suspension agreement also establishes a minimum price range of $255 to $280 per ton.
The department added that in light of a dramatic surge of Russian hot-rolled steel imports in 1998, the countries have agreed to impose a six-month moratorium on imports of hot-rolled steel products from Russia. As a result, Russian hot-rolled steel exports to the United States will be less than 345,000 tons in 1999, or about 90 percent less than 1998 export levels.
The deal is subject to comments from all parties from now until the end of March, when a final agreement could be signed, the Commerce Department said.
-- from staff and wire reports