Monday, March 16, 2015

AEC Fair Trade: Staying the Course Yields Victories

At this year’s Annual Meeting, attendees were treated to a presentation from the lead attorney on our China Fair Trade Case.  In that presentation, which can be viewed here (you will need your AEC login credentials), Robert DeFrancesco, Partner at Wiley Rein, walked us through the key issues impacting not only our industry’s case, but the greater challenges to the aluminum market.  Please review Robert’s presentation and consider how important US-China trade issues are to aluminum extruders throughout North America.

These macro-political issues create challenges for our industry beyond our reach.  Only through collaborating with other industries that are under assault will we be able to influence policy-makers in the way we must in order to survive the relentless, unfair, and illegal trade actions coming out of the People’s Republic of China.

With this in mind, I was able to articulate AEC’s renewed strategy in my presentation in Palm Desert.  While we still must stay vigilant on scope requests and engaged in the administrative review process, we have learned that these larger threats must be dealt with in a different way.

To that end, the AEC Fair Trade Committee has embarked on a lobbying campaign that takes our message to elected officials in both houses of Congress, and on both sides of the aisle.  Whether we are asking for help on a scope exclusion request, what the real aluminum benchmark should be, or on a bill making its way through Congress, we are learning that our voice can be heard, and our efforts effective.

Most recently, several extruders from the Fair Trade Committee made their way to Congress seeking a number of legislative ‘fixes’ that could become law in the pending Trade Promotion Authority bill.  This bill, with the right amendments, could address a variety of issues we’ve been unable to win through the courts.  If successful, these legislative fixes can not only positively affect our trade orders, but save us countless dollars in legal battles.  However, this effort is not without its costs.  Volunteer members from the AEC must take time from their busy schedules to travel to Washington D.C. at their own expense.  Once there, they find a fast-paced day waiting with no guarantee of a successful outcome.  Often, they will make more than one visit, and then find a pile of follow up requests waiting for them at their home office including letter writing, thank you notes, and more phone calls to make.  These individuals are heroes to our industry and deserve our gratitude and respect.

Even this effort is not enough.  The Council needs to find ways to further embed itself in the process. That is why the AEC decided to join the Committee to Support US Trade Laws (CSUSTL).  This organization consists of industry leaders embroiled in trade cases across the global.  It includes members from the steel and solar industries.  Now, it includes aluminum extruders.  This committee identifies legislative and regulatory opportunities inside the beltway and seeks to promote our mutual interests.  For me, it has been a fascinating view of how our federal government develops policies.  It has also taught me that the issues we face are common across other industries that have successfully gained trade protection.

Furthermore, the AEC decided that I should join the International Trade Advisory Council (ITAC).  This is a volunteer committee that advises the U.S. government on trade policy issues from an industry perspective.  I've just recently received my security clearance and thus accepted. I plan to make the next meeting in late June 2015.  The section we have joined deals with non-ferrous and building and construction industries.  It is a perfect fit for our Council.

As circumvention issues continue to be reported we must be prepared to support the men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Department of Justice.  As cases arise, the AEC intervenes to report, support, educate, and even testify as requested.  AEC members need to know that suspected circumvention needs to be reported and that it will be dealt with.

In the last few months we have seen positive results on all fronts of our campaign.  Our CVD & AD rates continue to run at a level that has kept Chinese imports under 1% of our total market.  Important end-use categories have been definitively ruled ‘in scope’ and subject to tariffs.  Our voice on Capitol Hill is impacting legislation and insuring that we hold the Department of Commerce to its orders.  And finally, criminals that have broken trade laws have received heavy fines and possibly jail time.  These successes tell us that we must continue the fight.  This is no time to become complacent.  Your efforts and support are crucial to our success.  I am proud to serve the AEC and its members because you have done just that – you have supported this effort with your time and treasure.  Thank you and congratulations on your successful campaign.