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The U.S. Commerce Department has removed antidumping duties that were imposed in 1997 on supercomputers made by NEC Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. and other Japanese firms, department officials said Thursday.

The decision effectively clears the way for Japanese computer makers to resume exports of supercomputers to the lucrative U.S. market.

The U.S. slapped antidumping duties of 454 percent on NEC machines, 173 percent on Fujitsu’s products and 314 percent on supercomputers made by all other Japanese manufacturers following a 1997 ruling in support of complaints filed by Cray Inc. of the United States.

The Commerce Department removed the duties in response to a plea by Cray, which formed a partnership with NEC in February.

In May 1996, NEC outbid other companies, including Cray, in a tender to supply vector supercomputers to a U.S. government organization for use in climate research. Clay filed a dumping complaint against Fujitsu and NEC in July 1996.

NEC agreed in February to supply its supercomputers to Cray to be sold under the U.S. company’s name, giving Cray the exclusive right to market the NEC SX-5 series and successor models in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The original equipment manufacturing agreement led Cray to ask the Commerce Department to end the punitive duties against NEC.

NEC welcomed the decision, saying, “The removal of the duties will promote sales of NEC vector supercomputers in North America through Cray.”

Cray said Thursday NEC will invest $25 million to buy about 3.13 million nonvoting, preferred Cray shares.

ITC rules on dumping

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in a final decision Thursday that stainless steel angles imported from Japan are hurting the U.S. industry, clearing the way for the U.S. government to impose punitive antidumping duties.

The ITC’s unanimous ruling allows the Commerce Department to order U.S. customs authorities to collect duties, corresponding to dumping margins the department set earlier, on products shipped from Japan.

The dumping margins have been set at 114.51 percent on steel angles shipped by Aichi Steel Corp., Daido Steel Co. and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., and 70.48 percent on imports from all other Japanese makers.

Stainless steel angles are used mainly in construction materials.

Slater Steels Corp. and two labor unions — the United Steelworkers of America and the AFL-CIO/CLC — jointly filed the antidumping complaint with the ITC, an independent federal agency, and the Commerce Department in August.

The petition was the 13th lodged by the U.S. steel industry against Japanese-made steel products since the so-called steel crisis hit the United States in the wake of the Asian financial crisis that began in summer 1997.

The latest ruling settles 12 complaints, with Washington slapping punitive duties on eight categories of steel products and dismissing charges against four.

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