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United States, Russia Reach Steel Agreement
By Martin Crutsinger  Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Russia agreed Monday to limit steel shipments into the United States, avoiding punitive tariffs that had been sought by the U.S. steel industry.

The agreement was announced by Commerce Secretary William Daley. He said it will mean a cut of almost 70 percent in Russian steel shipments coming into the United States compared to their levels last year.

"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 in a statement announcing the deal.

Russia initiated the discussions after the U.S. industry filed complaints charging Russia, Japan and Brazil with "dumping" steel in the United States at unfairly low prices.

The government earlier this month ruled that Japan and Brazil were dumping steel in the United States and set preliminary tariffs ranging up to 70 percent, a level that would effectively block future imports of hot-rolled steel from those two countries.

Russia, hoping to avoid punitive tariffs, had entered into discussions with the administration to suspend the tariff cases in favor of an agreement by which Russia would voluntarily limit exports in the future.

Under the deal reached between the two countries, Daley said that Russia will roll back the level of hot-rolled-steel shipments to their 1996 levels. The agreement will also cover other types of steel and those shipments will be held at their 1997 levels, before the Asian currency crisis sent shipments surging.

"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.

However, the industry had been opposed to an agreement with Russia because such a deal gives that country guaranteed access to the huge U.S. market.

But the administration believed a negotiated agreement was the best approach to take given the severe economic hardships being faced by Russia, whose economy was pushed into a steep recession last year by the currency turmoil that began in mid-1997 in Asia.

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