LTV's failure won't ease industry's woes, experts say

WASHINGTON -- Tuesday's announcement by bankrupt LTV Corp. that it would shut down its plants could have an effect on the U.S. International Trade Commission's ongoing investigation into ways to help American steelmakers cope with inexpensive foreign steel.
The trade commission ruled last month that steel imports seriously injured the domestic industry and is slated to deliver to President Bush a slate of recommendations aimed at helping U.S. steelmakers recover from the illegal imports and restructure themselves to be more competitive with foreign companies.
But labor and industry experts fear that the failure of LTV and several smaller companies could lead some people to inaccurately believe that remaining steelmakers will thrive in a market with fewer competitors.
Instead, they said, the remaining steel companies will still have to compete with inexpensive foreign imports and urged the trade commission to recommend that Bush impose strict quotas and high tariffs on their foreign competitors.
"The danger is that people will look at LTV's liquidation and be too optimistic that the exit of one player from the market will lead to price recovery," said a person involved in presenting the steel case to the trade commission. "LTV has not been the problem. Its exit is not going to return the industry to profitability."
But U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, an Indiana Democrat who has been among the strongest supporters of the trade commission's investigation, said the failure of one of the nation's largest steelmakers should help the three Republican and three Democratic members of the trade commission understand the American steel industry's dire straits.

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