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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 16:16 GMT
South Africa cheers US steel tariffs
Iscor's Saldanha plant in South Africa
Iscor expects a big increase in exports to the US
South African steel makers have welcomed their exemption from US import tariffs on steel imports from a wide range of countries.


If we command higher metal prices, and prices are generally higher in the US, then we would find it economical to reposition some of our exports from other markets to the US

Phaldi Kalam
Iscor
Steel producers around the world have reacted with fury after the US imposed tariffs of up to 30% on imports.

The European Union, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Brazil have vowed to fight the new barriers.

But South Africa was exempted because it is a developing country and supplies just 1.7% of US imports.

Big bonus

The decision is seen as good news for South Africa's producers because US prices are expected to jump by up to 30%.

"If we command higher metal prices, and prices are generally higher in the US, then we would find it economical to reposition some of our exports from other markets to the US," Phaldi Kalam, head of public affairs at the country's largest steel maker Iscor told the BBC's World Business Report.

"Highveld welcomes President Bush's decision," said Trevor Jones, chairman and chief executive of South Africa's Highveld Steel and Vanadium.

According to USA Census Bureau data, South African steel makers exported just 472,675 tonnes of carbon, alloy and stainless steel products to the US in 2001.

No worries over new tariffs

There are now fears that the EU could also put up tariff barriers to protect its markets from other countries looking for buyers for steel blocked from the US.

But as a minor steel producer, any impact on South Africa is thought to be negligible as it supplies most of its domestic demand and imports only about 120,000 tonnes of specialist steel

Iscor shares fell 2.45% while Highveld shares were unchanged after the US announcement.

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Iscor, Phaldi Kalam
"Our argument has always been that under WTO regulations we should be exempted."
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