Russia to impose duties on American goods after U.S. sets metals tariffs

MINSK (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it would impose import duties on U.S. road-building machinery, a measure likely to help Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was hit by U.S. sanctions and controls Russia’s biggest maker of road-building equipment.

Russian Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

In the latest move in the war of sanctions between Russia and the United States, Russia plans to impose import tariffs on certain goods from the United States in response to duties imposed by Washington on steel and aluminum imports.

The tariffs will target goods that have domestic equivalents in Russia, Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said.

“There is road-building machinery and a number of other items that Russia imports,” Oreshkin said when asked to specify the list of goods that Moscow plans to levy tariffs on.

The move follows a request from Russian businesses that were hit by U.S. sanctions to the Russian state to help them to overcome increased financial and economic difficulties.

Deripaska, who controls GAZ, Russia’s largest producer of road-building machinery, such as asphalt placers, has already asked the Russian state to purchase some output from his company RUSAL, in an effort to alleviate the pain inflicted by U.S. sanctions.

Oreshkin said that the government had no plans to impose import duties on U.S.-made medicine. That followed a wave of discontent among Russians over the proposal by Russian lawmakers to ban a wide range of U.S. goods and services, from medicine to software.

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The new measures will serve a “balancing” function, Oreshkin said, after Washington in March imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, in a move mainly aimed at curbing imports from China.

Russia did not receive an exemption, as Argentina, Australia and Brazil did. Russian steel companies are trying to dispute the tariffs with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Russia is using its rights at the World Trade Organization and is introducing balancing measures on imports from the United States,” Oreshkin said.

The list of goods will be set in the next several days, the economy ministry said.

“These measures will begin to be implemented in the form of additional import duties on American goods in the near future,” Oreshkin said.

“They will only concern products that have equivalents on the Russian market and will not have a negative effect on macroeconomic indicators,” he said.

Oreshkin made the comments during a visit to Minsk with a group of government officials led by President Vladimir Putin.

Additional reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Gleb Stolyarov, Writing by Tom Balmforth and Andrey Ostroukh, Editing by William Maclean