ByJohn S. McClenahen With the war in Iraq apparently over, the economic uncertainty of the past several months should begin to clear away, suggests Ralph J. Nappi, president of the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association (AMTDA), Rockville, Md. "U.S. manufacturers can now set their sights on the future and focus on productivity and process improvements to be more competitive in the world marketplace," he says. Both AMTDA and McLean, Va.-based AMT-The Association for Manufacturing Technology hope that focus will produce a significant number of new orders for the machine tools that cut and form metal. But data compiled jointly by the two trade associations show that overall machine tool consumption for the first two months of this year is running well behind the rate for the comparable period of 2002. Gross new orders of machine tools for U.S. use totaled $265.55 million during January and February of this year, down 24.5% from the $351.94 million recorded during the first two months of 2002.