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U.S. launches probe into Chinese wire rod imports

WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - U.S. trade officials on Friday opened investigations into imports of carbon and alloy steel wire rod from China, which local companies say are being sold too cheaply.

The U.S. Commerce Department said it would look into the pricing of wire rod, used for fencing, nails, barbed wire and rope, and subsidies to Chinese producers.

Companies including ArcelorMittal USA LLC, Nucor Corporation, Charter Steel, Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel and Gerdau Ameristeel complained the Chinese products were being sold at 100 to 110 percent below fair market value.

Imports from China rose from 144 tons in 2011 to over 614,000 tons in 2013, the companies said in their request for an investigation.

The Department of Commerce said that in 2013, imports of carbon and certain alloy steel wire rod from China were valued at an estimated $313 million.

The U.S. International Trade Commission is scheduled to vote on whether there is a reasonable case that the imports harm local business by March 17. If it decides there is, Commerce would make a preliminary ruling on subsidies by April 28 and dumping by July 10.