STEEL PRODUCERS Ruling to benefit industry

Hearings are expected to take place next month.
WARREN -- WCI Steel stands to benefit eventually from this week's U.S. International Trade Commission determination that cheap foreign imports are hurting the domestic steel industry, but a remedy is likely still months away.
Tim Roberts, a spokesman for Warren-based WCI, said the flat-rolled steel it produces is one of 12 steel product types the ITC found have been damaged by foreign steel dumping.
"All our major product lines were included," Roberts said. "The ITC ruling confirms what the steel industry has been saying for years."
WCI lost $22.3 million in its second quarter ending April 30, its third consecutive losing quarter, and officials have blamed price pressure from foreign competitors, as well as a slowing economy and low customer demand.
Tim Bennett, a spokesman for the Ohio Steel Council, said the trade commission determined that 12 of the 33 general product areas in the industry have suffered.
"It's a very important first step," he said.
LTV Corp., a Cleveland-based steelmaking giant with some operations in the Mahoning Valley, will also benefit because it produces flat-rolled steel.
Who won't benefit: Others, like North Star Steel in Youngstown and Duferco Steel in Farrell, may not. North Star makes seamless pipe, a category the ITC found has not suffered notably because of imports, and Duferco buys steel slabs from foreign suppliers, so its cost of doing business could rise with the commission's ruling.
Jim Cowan, general manager at North Star, said the ITC decision is unlikely to have much impact there. He said the seamless pipe industry hasn't been hurting as much as some other product categories because the ITC imposed duties in 1996 on seamless pipe produced by four foreign countries -- Argentina, Italy, Japan and Korea.
Cowan said imports from those countries were "doing serious damage" to the industry in the mid-1990s, and the ITC agreed to continue the duties after reviewing the matter in June.
North Star produces much of its pipe for the oil and gas well drilling industry, a business which has been flourishing until recently.
What's next: Roberts, of WCI, said the trade commission's next step will be to conduct a series of hearings to determine a remedy for the steel-dumping problem. Quotas, tariffs or a combination of both will be considered.
Hearings will likely be held in November, with steel industry representatives and advocates of foreign steel getting the opportunity to comment. The commission has until Dec. 19 to make a recommendation, but President Bush will get the final say on whether to follow that recommendation.
If Bush rejects it, it would take a majority vote of both the House and the Senate to overrule his decision.