Monday, February 8, 2016

The AEC to the DOC: Time’s Up!

For over two years the U.S. aluminum extrusion industry has asked the Department of Commerce (DOC) one simple question: Are the so-called ‘5000-series’ products that have been coming into our market duty-free covered by the scope of our orders or not?  Having anticipated a response last autumn, then this winter, you can imagine our reaction to seeing the can be kicked down the street for another few weeks.

What is different about our approach this time is that in October, we not only filed a scope clarification case, but we also filed a circumvention case.  As a result of that, we are now asking commerce if these extrusions are in scope or a blatant act of circumvention in order to evade duties.  It’s one or the other.  There is nothing on the record that suggests that 5000-series alloy substitution serves any other purpose than to cheat the Federal Government of the United States out of duties and the Aluminum Extruders Council out of the full protection of its orders.

Period.

So, when we learned this week that even framing the question in that form is still not enough to bring this issue to a conclusion, we had to publicly respond. We aren’t alone in our disappointment.  Several Senators supported our filing of our Scope Clarification/Circumvention case against Zhongwang.  When news of these delays came to their attention, they added their voice to the discussion.

Most believed our Zhongwang filing was only about these slabs of welded aluminum extrusions the company claimed were aluminum pallets.  That is part of our case, but not all of it.  In fact, there are essentially four elements to our case: 1) Scope Clarification on these aluminum slabs, 2) Request for investigation of possible circumvention with these aluminum slabs, 3) Scope Clarification on the so-called 5000-series alloy extrusions (previously filed and referenced in this matter), and 4) Request for investigation of possible circumvention using so-called 5000-series alloys.

In December, the Department of Commerce delayed its decision on our four-part filing and requested we break it into three pieces.  Remember the scope request on the 5000-series alloy, the fourth piece, was already in the pipeline - for 2 years!  We, of course, complied.  Having believed we had developed every available legal angle, complied with their request to re-file, we waited with eager anticipation for their decision on January 21, 2016.

Then the snowstorm came.  Washington D.C. was shut down, and no decision was issued.  So, we waited, and waited…

And, now we learn it was postponed again.  This time there is a questionnaire they want us to file.  In so doing, they postpone the decision for 45 days after we return their questionnaire.  While we agree a questionnaire needs to be completed, we think they are asking the wrong party to fill it out!  It’s time for Zhongwang to answer some questions.

Just launch the investigation and submit the questionnaire to them!  That’s all we are asking.  If there is nothing to hide or conceal, then give Zhongwang a chance to do that!  If there is, then let’s get to it!
We realize the DOC team has worked long and hard on our case.  We know it’s been complicated and challenging.  Certainly, many of these folks have put in many long days in a job that may not always be fun, but at least they have jobs.  Would it change their view if they encountered one of the families that have lost their income due to the alleged illegal and unfair trade practices and government indecision?  I imagine it would.  Faced with a similar scene some years ago in rural Louisiana, I can tell you, it changed mine.

AEC members, know this, I will not stop.  We will see this through.  If any of you have heard the rumors I’ve been hearing in recent days, you too may be cautiously optimistic that help is on the way.  On these four matters, and whatever other tentacles may end up being attached to them, know that this fight has only just begun!

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