Australia has negotiated an exemption to most of the new steel tariffs announced by the US last week, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday.
"Understandings have been reached with the United States administration over the weekend which will allow Australian exports of hot rolled steel products to the United States West Coast to proceed," Howard told the House of Representatives.
Howard said the exemptions meant that 85 percent of Australian steel exports to the US would not be affected by the new tariffs.
It was not immediately clear if other countries would also benefit from the move.
US President George W. Bush announced tariffs last Tuesday of up to 30 percent for three years on a wide range of steel products.
The hikes were widely perceived as a bid to protect US steel industry jobs in states vital to his Republican Party in upcoming congressional elections.
The move drew sharp criticism from many steel-producing nations that fear the tariffs would reduce their steel exports to the US.
Last week, some prominent industry and political leaders in Australia suggested that if the country were to be negatively affected by US trade tariffs, then Canberra should review its close security and defense ties with the US.
Australia has long been a close ally of the US, and Howard's government was one of the first to offer military support for the war in Afghanistan.
Australia exports about 800,000 tonnes of steel worth some A$450 million (US$234 million) to the US each year.