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Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK


Business: The Economy

US, Russia sign steel deal



Russia has agreed to limit its exports of steel and other metals to the United States over a five-year period, after Washington threatened to introduce quotas and punitive tariffs.

World trade wars
Meeting in Paris, the two sides signed an agreement, outlining in detail how much steel Russia is allowed to export in each year.

US Commerce Secretary William Daley said the agreement delivered "the administration's commitment to guarantee that surging imports do not threaten the livelihoods of communities and workers" around the United States.

During 1998 steel producers in Russia, Japan and Brazil captured a large share of the US market. US steel producers accused their rivals of "dumping" and called for the introduction of quotas.

Many industry analysts, though, say the success of foreign producers was triggered by the strong dollar, which made their products very cheap.

By signing the agreement, the Russian government has avoided a potential trade war with the United States.

Russia's Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov said the accords were the result of a difficult compromise.

He added that the deal was aimed at lifting the threat of Russia being completely excluded from the US market, which could have cost Russia $1.5bn in export earnings over five years.

Late-night phone calls

The deal will reduce Russian shipments for hot-rolled steel by 64% this year compared to 1998.

The quotas will gradually rise over the following four years, climbing to a high of 725,000 metric tons in 2003.

According to US officials, this would still be well below the 1998 level of imports.

In return, US anti-dumping proceedings against Russian hot-rolled steel will be halted.

A second agreement sets quotas for 15 different types of Russian steel exports with a total volume of 2.7 million tonnes.

The deal was made after a marathon bargaining session. Final obstacles were overcome with the help of phone calls from Vice President Al Gore to Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin on Monday afternoon and again late Monday night.





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