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EXCLUSIVE-In letter, U.S. steel firms urge Trump to curb steel imports

(Adds quotes from letter, background)

WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The chief executives of top American steel companies and related groups urged President Donald Trump on Thursday to urgently impose trade measures to curb excess steel capacity and surging imports they say are undermining the U.S. industry.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, or AISI, called on Trump in a letter to immediately act under "Section 232" of a 1962 U.S. trade law, which allows for restrictions to protect national security.

"We urge you to implement a remedy that is comprehensive and broad based, covering all major sources of steel imports and the full range of steel products, with only limited exceptions for products not currently available in the United States," according to the letter seen by Reuters.

Companies that signed the letter included Alton Steel, AK Steel Corp, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc, TimkenSteel Corp, Nucor Corp, and ArcelorMittal USA.

The letter was the second in five months from the steel industry to Trump, who promised in his presidential campaign to protect American steelworkers from imports and ordered an investigation of foreign steel imports under Section 232.

The results of the investigation were handed to Trump last month. He has 90 days to respond.

A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Forcing a reduction of excess production in China, which now supplies half the worlds steel, is a key goal of any potential restrictions.

The United States, the world's biggest steep importer, and China have long been at odds over how to combat excess capacity in the global steel sector. China has argued that it has done its bit to tackle the problem by cutting capacity.

The letter to Trump underscored that despite the threat of trade actions, imports continue to surge. In June 2017, steel imports hit their highest monthly total in more than two years by capturing 30 percent of the U.S. market, according to AISI.

Efforts to address global excess capacity through international consultations and groups such as the G20 and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had failed, AISI added in its letter.

"Upon taking office you took bold steps to launch a path for addressing this ongoing crisis," the group said, referring to Trump. "Now only you can authorize action to stop the relentless inflow of foreign steel." (Editing by Peter Cooney)