By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON Nov 16 The U.S. Commerce Department
on Friday said it had reached a draft agreement with the Russian
government to revise a 13-year-old deal governing imports of
The pact raises the minimum price at which Russian
hot-rolled steel can be sold in the United States.
The department launched the negotiations with Russia after
U.S. steel company Nucor Corp. complained the 1999
agreement was out of date.
Nucor and other interested parties will have a chance to
comment on the deal before it is final. Those remarks are due to
the Commerce Department by Nov. 23.
After a preliminary review of the 1999 "suspension
agreement," the Commerce Department agreed earlier this year
that prices for Russian hot-rolled steel were well below the
The reference price for Russian hot-rolled coil imports
using the suspension agreement mechanism of $408.32 per tonne
for the second quarter compared to the going rate in the
domestic market of $763 per tonne in March, the department said
in a June 1 notice announcing the preliminary results.
Under the revised formula in the draft deal, the reference
price in the fourth quarter would be $601.75 per tonne for one
group of Russian hot-rolled steel, $661.92 for a second group
and $770.24 for a third.
The draft deal was announced on the same day the House of
Representatives approved legislation to establish "permanent
normal trade relations" with Russia - a move required by
Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization in August.
But Moscow was angered by a provision that threatens
sanctions on Russian human rights violators. The Senate must
also approve the trade and human rights bill before President
Barack Obama can sign it into law.
The 1999 pact is called a suspension agreement because it
halted the imposition of U.S. anti-dumping duties on Russian
If the two sides fail to reach a new deal, those
anti-dumping duties, which one private trade attorney estimated
at 60 to 165 percent, may go into force in December.
The case has pitted Nucor and other U.S. producers against
Russian steel companies including JSC Severstal, Magnitogorsk
Iron and Steel and Novolipetsk Steel.
A description of the draft deal is posted on the Commerce