A regular round of talks between Russia and the European Union on a new steel trade agreement is expected to be held in mid-January, RIA Novosti was told at the Russian ministry of economic development and trade. The ministry does not rule out the signing of an agreement by the end of the month. The term of the 1997 agreement signed between Russia and the European Coal and Steel Community on trade in steel products expired on December 31. The consultations between Russia and the European Union to prepare a new agreement on steel began in November 2001. One of the results of these consultations was a preliminary agreement that the European Union will increase by 30 percent its quotas for the Russian export of metal products.