US, MEXICANS CONTINUE LEGAL TUSSLE OVER CEMENT

US, MEXICANS CONTINUE LEGAL TUSSLE OVER CEMENT

U.S. and Mexican cement producers are still locked in a legal battle over imports of Mexican cement more than two years after U.S. producers first took their complaint to federal officials.

The U.S. Court of International Trade has not yet scheduled oral arguments for the case that has pitted Cemex SA, a Mexican cement company that produces about 75 percent of the Latin American nation's cement, against a group of U.S. cement producers.In the fall of 1990, producers in both countries filed appeals with the court over recent decisions issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission, an independent body appointed by the U.S. president.

Joe Dorn, an attorney for the U.S. cement producers, said last week he did not expect any court decision on the cement case to influence the ongoing trade negotiations between the United States, Mexico and Canada. The three nations are in the midst of negotiating a North American free trade pact.

"One hundred countries have dumping laws. I can't believe the Mexicans are that concerned about this case," added Mr. Dorn, who is a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Kilpatrick & Cody.

All briefs have been submitted in the appeal filed by Cemex that challenges the commission's August 1990 finding that Mexican exports of cement are causing economic injury to U.S. cement producers, Mr. Dorn said.

Meanwhile, briefs are still being filed in the case in which U.S. cement producers appealed an earlier Commerce Department decision that said Mexican cement is being sold in the United States at dumping margins ranging from 3.69 percent to 57.96 percent of the imports' value.

The group which filed the suit, the Adhoc Committee of AZ-NM-TX-FL Producers of Gray Portland Cement, argued that the dumping margins should be higher. The committee represents the interests of about six U.S. cement producers in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Florida.

John Mangan, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing the U.S. producers, could not be reached for comment.

In 1990, U.S. imports of Mexican cement and clinker totaled nearly $51 million, down sharply from the $124 million imported in 1989, according to a Commerce spokeswoman. The 1989 figures accounted for nearly half of all cement and clinker imports in the Southern United States. Clinker is a pellet-like substance that is combined with gypsum and other grinding agents to produce cement.

Mr. Dorn said he did not know when the oral arguments would be held or when the international trade court judge might make his decision. The judge must not act within a specific timetable, he added.