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Australia Negotiates a Way Around the New US Steel Tariffs - 2002-03-11

Australia has negotiated a way around the new steel tariffs imposed by the United States. Prime Minister John Howard told Parliament that most of the country's steel exports to the United States will not be affected by the new duties.

Prime Minister John Howard's announcement is a relief to Australia's steel industry, which employs thousands of workers. It exports more than 800,000 tons of steel, worth $234 million, to the United States each year.

Last week President Bush imposed tariffs of up to 30 percent on a range of steel imports for three years.

The move immediately drew stern criticism from many countries, worried about damage to their exports.

The exemptions for Australia mean that 85 percent of its steel exports to the United States will not be affected by the tariffs.

Prime Minister Howard told Parliament a week of intense negotiations with U.S. officials succeeded. "This is the result, let me say, of a very strong, effective and coordinated lobbying effort in the right manner," Mr. Howard said.

Australian cabinet ministers wrote to their U.S. counterparts, asking that they soften the tariffs on imported steel. Prime Minister Howard sought the help of the U.S. ambassador to Australia, Tom Schaeffer.

Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile said the Bush administration has been won over by Australia's effort to protect its industry.

Australia has long been a close ally of the United States, and Howard's government was one of the first to offer military support for the war in Afghanistan.