British Steel Corp., trying to fend off import duties on the subsidized steel it sells in the United States, said yesterday that it has cut its U.S. sales sharply in the past decade, slashed its plant capacity and work force to trim its need for government aid, and adopted "disciplined" marketing policies.

Leading off the European steel makers' defense against demands from American producers for duties to offset their subsidies, British Steel sought to put distance between itself and other Common Market targets of the probe.

At a hearing before the U.S. International Trade Commission, Gordon Sambrook, chairman of British Steel's general steel group, vigorously denied that his nationalized company had used its heavy government subsidies to undercut U.S. steel prices and increase its share of the American market.

"We we have not increased our sales, and we have not exported our surplus capacity, but shut it down," said Sambrook. British Steel sells mostly to the same limited list of U.S. customers it was serving before it was nationalized in 1967, and has trimmed its sales here from 1.3 million tons a year in 1971 to fewer than 400,000 tons, he said.

British Steel has responded to the worldwide steel glut not by dumping its extra steel here but by cutting its capacity in half and by trimming its work force from 256,000 in 1967 to 92,000 now, Sambrook said.

The Commerce Department already has determined that steel makers in Britain, West Germany, Belgium, Italy, France and Luxembourg are subsidized by as much as 26 percent -- a figure denounced by U.S. producers as much too low.

The International Trade Commission must decide before Oct. 12 whether the European subsidies have caused "material injury" to U.S. producers and if an injury determination is made, duties equal to the size of the subsidies will be imposed.

The ITC has been hearing the cases as a group, and many lawyers familiar with trade law say the ruling should be based on the cumulative effect of the imported European steel.

But the British argued yesterday that they should be considered separately. Michael Sandler, an attorney from the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, which represents British Steel, referred to the Common Market by its official name of European Community, and said "we keep hearing EC, EC, as if it were the title of a Steven Spielberg movie. We believe we are entitled to a separate determination as to whether . . . our products contribute to material injury."

The British presentation followed two days of testimony from U.S. Steel Corp., Republic Steel Corp., Bethlehem Steel Corp., Armco Inc. and other major American producers about the subsidized imports' impact upon them.

Lawrence Klein, professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania, said yesterday that "significant injury" to U.S. producers was evident from figures he had prepared on lost sales and revenues. He calculated the annual loss at up to one million tons, and said the industry lost $800 million in sales in 1980 and $1.4 billion in 1981 as a result of the subsidized competition.

Samuel Sawyer, president of Richards and Conover Steel Co., a distributor in Kansas City, Mo, said that, on July 1, his principal supplier, Northwestern Steel and Wire Co., cut its prices by $138 a ton to meet the competition from Belgian steel that was being offered at cut-rate prices by an importer in Houston. Immediately afterward, the price of the European steel dropped by another $28 per ton, he said.

"It appears there's no bottom to their prices," Sawyer said.orts Slashed By Thomas W. Lippman Washington Post Staff Writer

British Steel Corp., trying to fend off import duties on the subsidized steel it sells in the United States, said yesterday that it has cut its U.S. sales sharply in the past decade, slashed its plant capacity and work force to trim its need for government aid, and adopted "disciplined" marketing policies.

Leading off the European steel makers' defense against demands from American producers for duties to offset their subsidies, British Steel sought to put distance between itself and other Common Market targets of the probe.

At a hearing before the U.S. International Trade Commission, Gordon Sambrook, chairman of British Steel's general steel group, vigorously denied that his nationalized company had used its heavy government subsidies to undercut U.S. steel prices and increase its share of the American market.

"We we have not increased our sales, and we have not exported our surplus capacity, but shut it down," said Sambrook. British Steel sells mostly to the same limited list of U.S. customers it was serving before it was nationalized in 1967, and has trimmed its sales here from 1.3 million tons a year in 1971 to fewer than 400,000 tons, he said.

British Steel has responded to the worldwide steel glut not by dumping its extra steel here but by cutting its capacity in half and by trimming its work force from 256,000 in 1967 to 92,000 now, Sambrook said.

The Commerce Department already has determined that steel makers in Britain, West Germany, Belgium, Italy, France and Luxembourg are subsidized by as much as 26 percent--a figure denounced by U.S. producers as much too low.

The International Trade Commission must decide before Oct. 12 whether the European subsidies have caused "material injury" to U.S. producers and if an injury determination is made, duties equal to the size of the subsidies will be imposed.

The ITC has been hearing the cases as a group, and many lawyers familiar with trade law say the ruling should be based on the cumulative effect of the imported European steel.

But the British argued yesterday that they should be considered separately. Michael Sandler, an attorney from the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, which represents British Steel, referred to the Common Market by its official name of European Community, and said "we keep hearing EC, EC, as if it were the title of a Steven Spielberg movie. We believe we are entitled to a separate determination as to whether . . . our products contribute to material injury."

The British presentation followed two days of testimony from U.S. Steel Corp., Republic Steel Corp., Bethlehem Steel Corp., Armco Inc. and other major American producers about the subsidized imports' impact upon them.

Lawrence Klein, professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania, said yesterday that "significant injury" to U.S. producers was evident from figures he had prepared on lost sales and revenues. He calculated the annual loss at up to one million tons, and said the industry lost $800 million in sales in 1980 and $1.4 billion in 1981 as a result of the subsidized competition.

Samuel Sawyer, president of Richards and Conover Steel Co., a distributor in Kansas City, Mo, said that, on July 1, his principal supplier, Northwestern Steel and Wire Co., cut its prices by $138 a ton to meet the competition from Belgian steel that was being offered at cut-rate prices by an importer in Houston. Immediately afterward, the price of the European steel dropped by another $28 per ton, he said.

"It appears there's no bottom to their prices," Sawyer said.