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U.S. temporarily suspends tariffs on steel imported from Ukraine

Ukraine war contributes to rising wheat prices
MoneyWatch: War in Ukraine contributes to rising wheat prices around the world 03:14

Washington — Following in Europe's footsteps, the U.S. is suspending its 25% tariffs on Ukrainian steel imports, the Commerce Department announced Monday. The suspension will last for one year. 

The move, while it may be partly symbolic for now, is the latest effort to bolster Ukraine's economy amid Russian President Vladimir Putin's assault on the country. Steel is a key sector of Ukraine's economy, representing 18% of the country's total exports in 2018, according to a 2019 report from the Commerce Department.

At the end of April, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there was an "ongoing consideration and process of reviewing a range of steps" the administration can take to provide relief to Ukrainians, including a review of tariffs. The European Union said last month that it was suspending all tariffs on Ukrainian imports for one year.

"Steelworkers are among the world's most resilient — whether they live in Youngstown or Mariupol," said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. "We can't just admire the fortitude and spirit of the Ukrainian people — we need to have their backs and support one of the most important industries to Ukraine's economic well-being. For steel mills to continue as an economic lifeline for the people of Ukraine, they must be able to export their steel. Today's announcement is a signal to the Ukrainian people that we are committed to helping them thrive in the face of Putin's aggression, and that their work will create a stronger Ukraine, both today and in the future." 

The tariffs were imposed by then-President Donald Trump in 2018, citing national security, with a 25% tariff on foreign steel imports and 10% on foreign aluminum imports. The ex-president imposed the tariffs over the objections of many experts, claiming other countries were undermining the U.S. steel and aluminum industries.

Some lawmakers in Congress have urged the Biden administration to lift the tariffs to support Ukraine's economy.

"We respectfully request that you remove the 25 percent U.S. tariff on steel imports from Ukraine to help it eventually stabilize and rebuild its economy," Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote in a letter to the president last month. "The United States should do everything it can to ensure that the Ukrainian people can effectively rebuild after the war. Lifting the U.S. tariff on steel from Ukraine is a small but meaningful way for the U.S. to signal support for Ukraine and to provide stability and improve the country's long-term economic outlook."

A key target of Russia's war on Ukraine in recent weeks has been a steel plant in the city of Mariupol, one of the largest such facilities in Europe. It encompasses furnaces, warehouses and tunnels. Ukraine has been evacuating women and children from the site, although Ukrainian troops remain secluded in the facility's vast underground network of tunnels.

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