UPDATE 1-Brazil may raise import tariffs to help steelmakers -Levy
(Recasts with Levy comments, updates stock price and adds context)
BRASILIA Nov 18 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government is considering raising import tariffs on steel as part of measures to help the country's struggling steelmakers, Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said on Wednesday.
Speaking after a congressional hearing in Brasilia, Levy said the government has not yet decided on the tariff hike, but was studying several ways to protect the industry just as other countries are doing.
"The global steel market has excess supply, and therefore we need to seek policies that defend our national interests," Levy told reporters. "We are studying measures that are compatible with the investment made by steelmakers, but that does not hurt other sectors."
Record low global steel prices have raise calls from the world's top steelmakers to halt the flow of cheap Chinese exports, partly blamed for the rout in prices.
Shares in Brazilian steelmakers jumped on Wednesday following a report in the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper that the government was analyzing raising import tariffs.
Preferred shares in struggling steelmaker Usinas Siderúrgicas de Minas Gerais SA rose 18 percent in early trade, while Gerdau SA and Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional SA were up 8 percent and 18 percent respectively.
Brazilian steelmakers are grappling with a high debt burden that has grown substantially because of the drop in the real. Brazil's currency has lost 30 percent its value against the U.S. dollar this year.
Import tariffs on some steel products could rise to between 15 percent and 20 percent, from between 8 percent and 14 percent, Folha reported. (Reporting by Marcela Ayres; Writing by Alonso Soto and Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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