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The United States will suspend tariffs on Ukrainian steel for one year, the Commerce Department said, citing the damage Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has done to the industry.

“Some of Ukraine’s largest steel communities have been among those hardest hit by Putin’s barbarism, and the steel mill in Mariupol has become a lasting symbol of Ukraine’s determination to resist Russia’s aggression,” the department said in a statement, referring to the plant that became the last redoubt of government troops fighting Russians for their city.

Then-president Donald Trump in 2018 imposed a tariff of 25 per cent on steel imports from countries including Ukraine. Lawmakers from both parties in April had urged U.S. President Joe Biden to lift the tariffs.

Ukraine is the 13th-largest steel producer and typically exports about 80 per cent of its production. Last month, the European Commission proposed a one-year suspension of import duties on all Ukrainian goods not covered by an existing free trade deal.

The European Union also proposed exempting Ukraine from safeguard measures that limit steel imports, and lift anti-dumping tariffs the EU currently imposes on Ukrainian steel tubes, hot-rolled flat steel products and ironing boards.

Senate finance committee chair Ron Wyden praised the move, saying, “it is important that the United States do everything it can to support the Ukrainian economy.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted Ukraine exported a total of $1.9-billion in goods to the United States in 2021 – less than 0.1 per cent of all U.S. imports but about 2.8 per cent of Ukraine’s total exports.

Prior to Russia’s invasion, nearly half of U.S. imports from Ukraine were metals such as iron, pig iron, and steel, but they represented a tiny fraction of total U.S. imports of metals.

The Commerce Department says Ukraine’s steel industry accounts for one in 13 Ukrainian jobs. Steel and related sectors make up nearly 12 per cent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product.

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