ORLANDO, Fla. Domestic aluminum extruders might have won a landmark trade case against imported aluminum extrusions from China, but that doesnt mean the battle against imports is over as the domestic industry continues to fight both legal challenges to the duties and illegal attempts to circumvent them, members of the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) said.
Hefty anti-dumping tariffs imposed on imports of aluminum extrusions from China in 2011 helped save the domestic extrusion industry, Duncan Crowdis, president of Bonnell Aluminum Inc. and outgoing chairman of the AEC, said. But there has also been a "massive reaction" against those duties, he added.
"We may have been a bit of a victim of our own success," Crowdis said March 16 during a town hall meeting at the AECs annual meeting and leadership conference in Orlando, Fla.
U.S. aluminum extruders and the United Steelworkers union in 2010 filed anti-dumping and countervailing duty petitions with the U.S. Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission (ITC), asking for relief against what it said were unfairly traded imports from China (amm.com, March 31, 2010). The ITC in 2011 determined that dumped and subsidized imports from China were, in fact, causing injury to the domestic industry (amm.com, April 28, 2011), and duties were implemented soon after. But the scope of those duties has since been challenged (amm.com, Nov. 28).
An administrative review currently under way could see the countervailing duties reduced, Crowdis said. But the AEC has no regrets about having brought the case, he said.
"While every extruder wasnt going to go out of business, it would have been the demise of the industry as we know it (had no duties been implemented)," Crowdis said, noting that imports of aluminum extrusions from China were surging at the same time that the United States was struggling to recover from the financial crisis.
The AEC was advised that winning a case on extrusions alone wouldnt be enough, so it sought to broaden the scope of the case to include fabricated products, Crowdis said. "We didnt want any extrusions coming in with a hole punched in it and someone saying it was a fabricated product and so its not covered," he said.
The AEC knew that after winning the case, it was going to have to contend with appeals, scope clarifications and other challenges that the group assumed would taper off over time, Crowdis said. But instead, the AEC learned from Commerce that it had received the "broadest and most complex scope orders" that Commerce had ever handed out, he said.
That breadth has protected the domestic extrusion industry, but has also invited more challenges than expected, Crowdis said.
"These scope requests really go on forever," Crowdis said, noting that the AEC will likely have to pay $1 million a year to continue its battle to keep existing duties in place. If the group doesnt, the situation of domestic extruders "will very quickly fall back to what we saw in 2009," he warned.
Another issue confronting the domestic extrusion industry are illegal efforts to circumvent duties, especially with product transshipped from China through Southeast Asian nations, Crowdis said. "We dont necessarily trust the (import) statistics entirely. We know there is some cheating going on in terms of circumventing," he said.
The AEC is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on those cases and hopes to make them public if they are successfully prosecuted, Crowdis said. "Its not a matter of retroactively getting duties charged; its jail time. And we want to hang someone up by the heels so that ... people realize that if they (circumvent duties) they are going to get caught and they will probably lose their business," he said.
Circumvention attempts are often brazen, Crowdis said, pointing to a case where product was tagged with labels indicating it was made in China. Those labels werent removed, but were simply covered up with others that said it originated in Malaysia, he said.
"A lot of us receive e-mails from brokers that say, Hey, we can get around this. We can just ship through Malaysia, " Crowdis said. "They send them to me, for Gods sake."