Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Oct 10, 2002
Industry & Economy - Steel
Indian Steel Alliance to hire top US law firm
NEW DELHI, Oct. 9
IF all goes well, the former US Deputy Trade Representative during the Clinton era, Ms Susan G. Esserman, may soon emerge as the saviour for the Indian steel industry in the international market.
The Indian steel industry is in the process of finalising a deal with a top US-based law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, headed by the Ms Esserman for providing market intelligence on a real-time basis to enable Indian producers plan their production and exports in advance.
In a first-ever move of its kind, the Indian Steel Alliance (ISA), a representative body of the domestic industry comprising all the primary steel producers, is holding negotiations with three US-based law firms - - Steptoe & Johnson, Hammonds & Studdards and W&G - - for monitoring the US steel market.
According to highly-placed industry sources, Ms Esserman's firm is ahead in the negotiations and may be selected shortly, given the fact that Steptoe & Johnson fought and won India's case in the International Trade Commission against US trade lobbies. This enabled Indian producers to resume their exports to the US market in August except those products which are under the anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
According to the sources, this is a timely move on the part of the Indian industry to pre-empt various moves by the US industry aimed at blocking imports.
According to the terms of reference, which is currently being finalised by ISA, the law firm will be expected to monitor the market and provide data on US steel production, consumption as well as weekly and fortnightly updates on the US consumer spending index which will enable Indian producers to make an estimate of the likely demand and expected changes in the short and medium term.
The firm will also be expected to provide feedback from other steel producing countries exporting to the US market such as South Korea, Japan, China and the European Union.
Ms Esserman had been responsible for the US trade policy and the negotiations with Europe, India, Russia and former Soviet Union, Africa and West Asia in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). As the Deputy Trade Representative, Ms Esserman had virtually prosecuted India in several trade disputes, but the position also gave her an insight into the steel dumping issue, the sources pointed out.
Currently, US imports around 27 million tonnes of steel annually. The recent ITC ruling has withdrawn the safeguard duties on 178 items which together accounts for 15 million tonnes of imports by the US. This has upset US producers who are currently exploring various avenues to block imports through the US legal system.
To counter these moves that a strong law firm with proven expertise was required, the sources said.
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