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Egypt's steel industry files anti-dumping claim against imports

NEW YORK, July 22 (Reuters) - Egypt's steel companies have filed a petition against rebar and wire rod imports from China, Turkey and Ukraine, one of its top steelmakers said on Tuesday, the latest move in a years-long quest to protect the fledging industry from low-priced imports.

Egyptian Steel and other major steelmakers have submitted a request for the government to re-introduce anti-dumping duties on imports of rebar and wire rod, used in the construction industry, Ahmed Abou Hashima, chief executive of Egyptian Steel said in an interview. The filing was made in May.

The industry moved quickly after former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won the country's presidential vote, putting a military man back in power after the brief hiatus of Islamist control.

It comes at a critical time for Egypt's steel industry, which is still recovering from political turmoil, and for a global market struggling with low prices and overcapacity due to lackluster demand.

"How can (foreign) rebar and wire rod enter Egypt with zero customs? We have very high-tech industries in Egypt, especially in steel, but we must protect them (from foreign imports)," Abou Hashima said. "We have to change from customers to industrials: that's the only way a country can grow."

According to steel industry body Worldsteel, Egyptian steel output fell at an annual rate of 8 percent in the first four months of 2014, to 2.05 million tonnes, after rising just 1.9 percent last year amid the turmoil surrounding the overthrow of former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

The industry sees dumping duties as necessary after Sisi slashed energy subsidies to factories in an effort to salvage ruinous government finances.

"The new government has a lot of issues on hand, so we want to make sure that the issue does not die out and remains on top of their agenda," Abou Hashima said.

Calls for the government to re-introduce previously short-lived dumping duties started last year after the government dropped tariffs in June after just six months.

The petition in Egypt comes after other countries, including the United States, successfully imposed protection duties on imports of steel rebar.

In April this year, the U.S. Commerce Department set preliminary duties on millions of dollars worth of imports from Mexico and Turkey after producers alleged foreign competitors were selling steel rebar at unfairly low prices.

Previously, Egypt's Industry Ministry confirmed that no import duties were in place on imports from Turkey, the world's top steel rebar exporter, but declined to comment on whether or not the government was considering such a measure.

Egyptian Steel is planning to expand its annual capacity to over 2 million tonnes by late 2016 from 355,000 tonnes now.

(Reporting by Lorenzo Ligato; Editing by Josephine Mason and Dan Grebler)