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US slaps new duties on steel from Mexico and China

[WASHINGTON] The United States announced fresh duties on some Mexican and Chinese steel goods on Monday, saying those countries helped their manufacturers with unfair subsidies which harmed US domestic producers.

The decision comes two months after US President Donald Trump agreed to lift tariffs on steel and aluminium from Mexico and Canada after the three nations agreed on a revised North American free-trade pact.

The Commerce Department found that imported fabricated structural steel benefited from subsidies in China, Mexico and Canada, but in the case of Canada the subsidies were negligible, so no retaliatory duties were imposed.

Fabricated structural steel is used in major building projects, such as bridges, buildings, parking decks and ports.

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The action was in response to a grievance lodged in February by US steel producers. In its preliminary findings Commerce found Mexican and Chinese exporters of fabricated structural steel benefitted from subsidies ranging from 30.3 per cent to 177.43 per cent.

In 2018, the United States imported US$722.5 million worth of fabricated structural steel from Canada, US$897.5 million worth from China and US$622.4 million worth from Mexico, according to the Commerce Department.

US customs agents will begin collecting import duties based on the subsidy rates, but the funds could be returned if officials later reverse the finding.

The independent US International Trade Commission sometimes blocks Commerce Department actions if they find American firms were not harmed by the subsidies.

The Department is expected to make its final ruling on the imports around Nov 19 this year.

Citing purported threats to US national security, Mr Trump last year announced global tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium but in May agreed to lift them for Mexican and Canada.

Mr Trump has hailed the tariffs, claiming they have breathed new life into a moribund but crucial US metals industry.

But the US steel industry has continued to suffer, with production halted at blast furnaces last month and overall employment edging downward at mills and foundries.

AFP, REUTERS