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Caribbean Islands-Iron and Steel





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Iron and steel production was the core industry in the new heavy industry strategy of the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately, the state-owned venture, Iscott, was the most unprofitable industry located at the Point Lisas complex. Although the modern plant was technically sound and well integrated into the energy resources and deep harbors of the complex, it faced serious marketing and management problems. Iscott's marketing problems were exacerbated in 1983 when five United States steel companies filed an antidumping suit against it. The government's deep involvement at Point Lisas in general, especially its provision of cheap inputs to iron and steel production, made for a difficult defense against claims that the government subsidized the steel industry. After paying countervailing and antidumping duties for several years, in 1987 Trinidad and Tobago signed a voluntary export restraint agreement with the United States to limit iron and steel exports to 73,000 tons per year for a three-year period. Management problems, particularly in the steel mill's melt shop, caused steel production to fall for the first time in 1984 and 1985. Declining production and large financial losses persuaded the government to hire two West European firms to manage Iscott's operations under a two-year contract. Production did increase in 1986, signaling the early success of the outside management contract.

Iscott's modern facilities at Point Lisas included two direct reduction plants with a combined capacity of 900,000 tons a year. The US$500 million plant used imported iron ore from Brazil in processing its steel. Iron and steel production reached 522,900 tons in 1985, marking the second year of declining production and the first year of a fall in exports. Exports reached 143,200 tons in 1985, only 27 percent of production, but exports were expected to expand again in the late 1980s. Output included direct reduced iron, steel billets, and wire rods. Direct reduced iron accounted for 42 percent of the subsector's output, the greatest share of iron and steel production, and 45 percent of exports. Production of steel billets represented 33 percent of the subsector's output, followed by wire rods with 20 percent. Over three-fourths of all wire rods were exported, whereas under 10 percent of steel billets were exported in the first half of the 1980s. A large portion of iron and steel was used domestically because of Iscott's marketing difficulty.

Data as of November 1987



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