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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 14:47 GMT
Steel firm condemns 'Mittal aid'
Valkia Ltd products
Valkia Ltd was blocked by US trade tariffs
A specialist steel company from west Wales has laid off 30 staff after being caught up in a transatlantic import tariff row.

Valkia Limited manufactured steel products until it was hit by an astonishing 125% import duty laid down by the US authorities.

The decision meant the Milford Haven-based firm could no longer trade profitably and the operation was closed down.
Keith Negal, MD Valkia Ltd
Keith Negal: 'Lost for words'

The international row over controversial steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal - who received backing from Tony Blair - has infuriated Valkia.

Mr Mittal contributed 420,000 to a US campaign to stop imports of foreign steel, a decision which has hit Valkia.

But at the same time Mr Mittal was getting help from Mr Blair to buy a plant in Romania.

To hear about this business in Romania, I find it difficult to put into words

Keith Negal, MD Valkia Ltd

On Monday, the prime minister's official spokesman said Downing Street staff were suffering from "Mittal fatigue" trying to convince reporters that there was no conspiracy surrounding the Indian tycoon's relationship with the UK government.

Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price - who first investigated the links between the prime minister and the a billionaire - has called for a inquiry into the issue.

The member for Carmarthen East, protested that the government's backing should have gone to the hard-pressed British steel industry.

Valkia director Keith Negal said the situation with Mr Mittal was astonishing.

"We produce very high quality products, precisely the sort of business I would have expected the government to support, but we have not had a whiff of serious backing.

Adam Price MP
Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price wants a public inquiry into to Mittal loan
"To hear about this business in Romania, I find it difficult to put into words," Mr Negal added.

Mr Mittal was backed by a government department in a bid for a multi-million pound European bank loan.

The businessman had also donated 125,000 to the Labour Party, it emerged.

In February last year, Corus axed 3,000 steel jobs in Wales, closing its Ebbw Vale plant and ending steel production at Llanwern.

Keith Negal, MD Valkia Ltd
"We have not had a whiff of serious support from the government"
Labour donor row: Should there be an inquiry?



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See also:

11 Feb 02 | Wales
Blair 'misled' over steel deal
14 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Q&A: Mittal donation row
18 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair silent on Mittal's US links
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