The government has extended the minimum import price (MIP) norms to 66 steel items for two more months, pruning the existing list of 173 products.The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) on Thursday notified the order. The items include flat-rolled non-allow steel and plastic, zinc or lead-coated steel among others. Products on which safeguard or anti-dumping duties were imposed have been removed from the list. However, the range of prices, $341 to $752 per tonne, has not changed.MIP norms, in place since February, had covered 173 steel products. It lapsed on Thursday but was immediately renewed. MIP sets a price below which imports are not allowed into the country. Domestic steel majors JSW, Essar Steel and Tata Steel had pitched for extension of this barrier for a further six months to curb cheap imports, mainly from China. On the other hand, exporters’ body Engineering Exports Promotion Council (EEPC) opposed the move citing difficulties being faced by user industries. Smaller players too have complained of being forced to buy expensive steel, while global prices are still far less.Countries such as Thailand and Canada have imposed temporary trade restrictions to help domestic manufacturers, but this has resulted in exporters China, Japan and South Korea selling at prices substantially lower than those prevailing in domestic markets.The move to extend MIP comes after the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping (DGAD) recommended a tax of up to $594 per tonne on imports of hot-rolled flat steel products, specifically from China, Japan, South Korea and Ukraine earlier this week. Also, the Directorate General of Safeguards has proposed a safeguard duty on about 107 steel products for two-and-a-half years that were imported from China, Ukraine and Indonesia.Steel Minister Birender Singh met stakeholders on July 28 and discussed the issues affecting the sector, especially in the backdrop of a slowdown in the international steel industry, and MIP. The steel ministry had argued in favour of continuing MIP, batting for the inclusion of additional products, according to sources.However, the commerce ministry had been in favour of reducing the number of product lines currently under MIP or for ending the norms altogether. This is because of mounting pressure from World Trade Organization (WTO) members, who view the move as protectionist, a ministry official said under the condition of anonymity.In a meeting of the goods council at the WTO in July, nine members, including the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia and China, had asked India to justify continued restrictions on imported steel. A Japanese industry delegation has echoed similar feelings. However, the domestic industry has refuted this claim, asserting that MIP is legitimate as it comes under one of the three exceptions according to existing WTO rules to restrict surging imports.