Thursday, October 16, 2014

Extruders Make their Voices Heard in D.C. during Aluminum Week

Aluminum Week was promoted as an opportunity for the aluminum industry to take their case to our nation’s capital, and boy, did we!  From Monday, September 29 through Wednesday, October 1, the Aluminum Extruders Council’s Fair Trade Committee lobbying team took full advantage of the venue.  The team started their week with a trip to the Department of Commerce (DOC) Monday afternoon to meet with Paul Piquado, assistant secretary of the Commerce Department's Enforcement and Compliance division.  Later that day, the group headed to the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) office to discuss its key role in appealing the MacLean-Fogg decision handed down earlier this summer.

On Tuesday, your Fair Trade Committee members went to our legal teams’ office to participate in a trade industry meeting hosted by a group known as CSUSTL.  CSUSTL stands for the Committee to Support United States Trade Laws, which was formed by a variety of industries being impacted by trade issues and legislation.  The group is tasked with combining industry voices for the purpose of advancing common sense trade legislation and policy.  That afternoon, the team went to Capitol Hill to work with staff members from both sides of the aisle in the Senate and House seeking support and asking them to add their voice to our efforts.

On Wednesday many members of the Aluminum Association and the Aluminum Extruders Council made additional calls on staffers in both houses.  This time, the agenda was to promote the growing Aluminum Caucus in the House, promote the benefits of aluminum, and the impact our industry has on the economy.  That afternoon a briefing was held on Capitol Hill with Aluminum Caucus members where speakers discussed the virtues of aluminum and the industry’s impact on the overall U.S. economy.

It was an impressive run; especially considering the AEC only started its lobbying efforts a little over one year ago.  Like last year, issues involving scope requests, administrative review calculation methodology for tariffs, and 5000-series substitution.  However, unlike last year, this time we approached the DOC with data, letters from elected officials, and an evolving relationship.  This was the fourth meeting we have had with Secretary Piquado in the last 14 months.  We continue to ask the Department to return to the simple and basic language of the original orders that clearly state that any kitted or fabricated extrusion that is not a part of a final finished product should be subject to tariffs.  Earlier this year it appeared that the DOC had received our message and was starting to move back to their original interpretation.  However, a couple of recent decisions say otherwise.  We will continue this dialogue for as long as it takes!  With the 5xxx discussion really heating up this summer, we made it a point to be clear about our views.  The DOC told us in this meeting that they would make a ruling on the 5xxx scope request by mid-October.

The United Sates Trade Representative (USTR) visit was a new experience for our group.  The USTR will be handling the appeal of a decision made earlier this year known as MacLean-Fogg (read more about the McLean-Fogg decision here).  MacLean-Fogg would force the DOC to use voluntary respondents’ rates in the calculation of the always-important ‘all others’ category.  This would end decades of practice by the DOC that had been disallowed by the Department due to concerns that Chinese petitioners would ‘game’ the system by not participating in the mandatory responses, and put forward volunteers that are certain to show less subsidies.  The USTR impressed our group with their professionalism and determination to win.  They thanked the AEC for our support in this effort.  That appeal is set to be heard in the next 4-6 weeks.

Many of the AEC members participating in the lobbying effort participated in the CSUSTL meeting. This was a firsthand view of how they could impact trade legislation as individual manufacturers and members of the AEC.  The AEC will continue to participate in future CSUSTL meetings, which will help us gain insight into the opportunities and challenges to our industry in pending legislation.  I am convinced this group will be a great ally for us as issues such as ‘China ’16’, currency valuation, and other key trade decisions are addressed by the Federal government.

The real heavy lifting took place when we took our concerns to our elected officials.  Several meetings took place with elected officials all across the nation.  Most of these legislators took the time prior to our meeting with them to call or write the DOC on our behalf.  One, Senator Hatch from Utah, actually held a face-to-face meeting with the DOC to address the 5xxx series issue.  The relationships that we are building will help us immensely as we defend our orders and take our case on pending legislation to our nation’s capital.

In summary, it is important to highlight that these efforts are a clear strategic direction for our trade case and our industry.  It was decided last year that we simply had to start working directly with all the key stakeholders in this matter, and that included key government agencies and our elected officials.  Since that time, several trips have been made and the AEC has formalized a lobby team.  These volunteers donate their time and energy to these opportunities and issues.  Our industry should be grateful to them, their efforts, and the victories they are delivering to the industry.