Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ITC Sunset Hearing, Like Product Challenges, Century’s WTO Case and More

Last month the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) testified before the International Trade Commission (ITC) in its request to have our trade orders against the Chinese aluminum extrusion industry renewed for another five years.  Those that testified included Brook Hamilton, Bonnell Aluminum Extrusion Company, Sue Johnson, Futura Industries, Jason Weber, Sapa Extrusions, Rick Merluzzi, Metal Exchange/Pennex, Bennett McEvoy, Western Extrusions, Jeff Henderson, AEC, and Alan Price and Robert DeFrancesco from Wiley Rein.  We expect to hear the ITC’s decision next month.

The hearing went very well.  We remain confident that the ITC will renew our orders.  However, there were ‘like product’ challenges to our case that required defense.  Like product challenges are similar to scope requests.  In essence the argument is whether a certain product, or family of products, should be excluded from the orders because they are so different from aluminum extrusions.  Three products were challenged: heat exchanges, mechanical fittings, and appliance handles.  We will have to wait to see how the ITC deals with these cases.  Their decision will be a part of the overall decision to either continue or discontinue our orders.

The other big news in our industry was the announcement by the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) office to take Century Aluminum’s case against China’s overproduction of aluminum to the World Trade Organization (WTO).  The AEC had lent its support of this case since last summer.  Our membership expressed deep concern about the prospect of China overtaking the world production of aluminum and what that would mean to our future.  We have rallied behind this effort as the clearest path available to address this growing concern.

Last month I briefly wrote about the increasing reports of cheap Vietnamese extrusions.  You may have read that Australian extruders recently filed a trade protection case with their government against Vietnam and Malaysia.  It is clear that this is a mounting threat, and one we intend to get in front of as quickly as possible.  Many believe these extrusions are simply transshipments from China.  While the jury is still out on that, it is clear that billions of pounds of extrusions are being shipped from Mexico, the U.S., and even Malaysia to a growing stockpile in Vietnam.  The estimated volumes suggest the inventory of extruded aluminum in Vietnam from these shipments is more than four billion pounds.  Obviously, these shipments are not heading to Vietnam due to an unprecedented growth in the demand of extrusions in Vietnam.  Please contact me with any information you may have regarding Vietnamese exports to the U.S.

The curtain wall coalition received some good news last month when the Department of Commerce, once again, issued a decision that stated unequivocally that curtain wall extrusions and unitized curtain wall are clearly in the scope of the orders.  This latest decision will put pressure on the Chinese to either appeal this (again), or walk away.  Should they appeal, we are confident that they will lose in court for the fourth time.  For more information regarding the curtain wall case visit their site: curtainwallcoalition.org.

In summary, it appears we have excellent momentum with our case going into 2017.  However, we remain vigilant on the growing threat from Vietnam.  So, I invite AEC members to join us next month at our Annual Meeting & Leadership Conference.  It will be an excellent opportunity for us to gather and discuss these issues.

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