Aluminum Trade: American Industry, American Workers Need Imports

[Editors note: On Friday, January 12, the US International Trade Commission determined that “there is a reasonable indication that a US industry is materially injured by reason of imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from China…”]

You may not know it, but there are nearly 12 million registered boats across the US In 2016 alone, 141.6 million Americans went boating – that’s right, almost half the population. These folks make a huge contribution to the US economy, with direct spending of $37 billion on new boats and marine products and by simply participating in one of America’s favorite pastimes. Each year, 111,000 aluminum boats are manufactured and sold, representing 43 percent of all new boat sales.

Currently, there is a case before the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) that requires the attention of all boaters and all users of common alloy aluminum sheet. Last November, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) announced it would self-initiate anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations on common alloy aluminum sheets from China. The rationale behind Commerce’s decision is simple: Imports of common alloy sheet from China at reduced prices may materially injure, or threaten material injury to, the domestic aluminum industry.

But Commerce neglects to paint a full picture of the situation at hand, instead obscuring the facts and tipping the scale by self-initiating a process in which they play judge, jury, and executioner.

Rather than allowing the US aluminum industry to pursue an AD and CVD investigation by submitting a petition – as has been standard practice since the passage of the Tariff Act of 1930 – the Department of Commerce has chosen to overreach by self-initiating this investigation. After all, there’s a reason it has been over 30 years since the Department last did so. This kind of investigation, while presumably intended to level the playing field for American industry, could in fact do the exact opposite and harm American manufacturers.

The boating industry is a shining example of American manufacturing – in fact 95 percent of boats sold in the US are made in the US. Our boats are made by Americans, for Americans. Recreational boating isn’t reserved for the elites and ultra-wealthy – it’s an accessible pastime enjoyed by millions of Americans from all walks of life. Sixty-two percent of boat owners have an annual household income of less than $100,000. Unfortunately, Commerce’s investigation threatens the recreational boating industry and the 650,000 American jobs it supports.

By initiating this investigation, Commerce stands to disrupt the existing supply chain of common alloy aluminum sheet, which is used in all kinds of every day products – from electronics, to recreational boats, vehicles, and trailers.

Like all American manufacturers, we believe wholeheartedly that American businesses and workers should be on a level playing field, and that bad actors should be punished.  The Administration has indicated they will further examine China and other potential rogue actors that should be taken to task for unfairly manipulating markets.

But the government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. In this instance, by potentially leveling the playing field for US aluminum, which cites 3,700 impacted jobs, Commerce puts ours, and other parts of the American manufacturing industry, at a disadvantage. To be clear, that means taking American jobs supported by industries that rely on common alloy aluminum sheets and putting them in jeopardy. By potentially doubling the price of the primary materials used to manufacture boats and marine products – ranging from pontoon and aluminum fishing boats to boat trailers – Commerce threatens to hamstring the recreational boating industry’s economic impact.

Thom Dammrich is the President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.


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