U.S. Steel Producers Want Russian Trade Deal Scrapped

U.S. steel producers on Thursday called for the Department of Commerce to scrap a trade deal with Russia that excuses hot-rolled steel shipments from import duties.

In a submission to the Commerce Department released by steel industry lawyers, Nucor Corp, U.S. Steel Corp, ArcelorMittal USA LLC and others said the agreement had not stopped Russian producers from undercutting local prices.

"This failure, and the resultant and rampant underselling by Russian hot-rolled producers, is allowing Russian producers to sell huge volumes of hot-rolled steel into the U.S. market," the submission said, adding that imports in January through June 2014 rose 1,400 percent from 2013 levels.

The suspension agreement sheltered Russian steelmakers from steep anti-dumping duties on hot-rolled coil (HRC), instead setting a cap on imports and a minimum price.

The call by U.S. producers to scrap the deal, which dates from 1999, follows the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes on dozens of Russian officials after Russia's military seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Russia is one of the biggest foreign suppliers of HRC and the move also reflects concerns about weak global prices, oversupply and sluggish demand for hot-rolled steel, which is used in appliances and autos.

An official said the Commerce Department was reviewing the request.

If the agreement is ditched, Russia's Severstal would be hit with anti-dumping duties of 73.59 percent. Other Russian producers, such as Novolipetsk Steel and Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, would face duties of 184.56 percent.

The original deal was agreed as the United States moved to stem a flood of Russian steel imports after the end of the Cold War. It can be terminated with 60 days notice, or modified by negotiation. Duties would apply immediately upon termination.

The United States also has suspension agreements in place on imports of Russian uranium and carbon steel plate.

The submission was also signed by Gallatin Steel Company, Steel Dynamics and SSAB.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes; editing by G Crosse and James Dalgleish)