Last week, MetalMiner briefly covered an international trade case involving Elkay Manufacturing, a US plumbing and cabinet manufacturer that recently won a trade case involving “…unlawful pricing by Chinese producers of drawn stainless steel sinks which caused material injury to ELKAY Manufacturing Company and other domestic producers.”
MetalMiner recently had the opportunity to catch up with Kathleen Deighan, VP, Chief Human Resources Officer & General Counsel, who led the efforts on behalf of Elkay.
MetalMiner: What sort of metrics do you monitor on a regular basis that begin to tip you off that there may be a dumping issue? Is it just import levels, or fast surges of imports? Is it something more than that?
Kathleen Deighan: We watch the import data that comes out on a monthly basis to see which countries are importing stainless steel sinks into the U.S. and look for trends that suggest imports are increasing from a particular country. When we see that a country is a significant exporter to the U.S., we try and determine the pricing of that product in the marketplace.
Chinese imports have grown quickly, 60% over the last four years. They now make up over 80% of all imports from foreign countries. But we are also very aware of pricing in the market. The pricing of Chinese sinks in the U.S. market is extremely low, which indicated to us that the product is either heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, is being dumped at illegally low prices, or both.
MM: Presumably, there is a lot of value-added labor that goes into a drawn stainless sink. In a case like this, do you think the Chinese are selling the stainless at below cost, or are they just lowering the price of the labor piece?
KD: Production of drawn stainless steel sinks is not labor-intensive. Thus, while labor costs in China are lower than in the U.S., these differences do not explain the Chinese producers’ ability to under-sell domestic producers to such a significant extent. The Chinese also benefit from lower costs on other inputs, including stainless steel that is provided by state-owned steel companies. Additionally, it is difficult to calculate the full benefit that Chinese producers receive from the Chinese government. While some direct subsidies are captured in the countervailing duties, the effects of the Chinese government’s efforts to encourage employment through exports extends beyond direct subsidies. In some instances, the Chinese government’s VAT refund constitutes the totality of any economic profit that a producer might reap from export sales.
MM: Of the 23 companies from China that received the new import duty rates (these firms received the lower-than-85% tariff rates), do you have a feel for how many of these companies are state-owned vs. privately owned? Do you think the state vs. private ownership issue matters much?
KD: No, we do not have a feel for which of these producers is state-owned. However, it is not uncommon for state-owned producers to be afforded the separate rate if their specific operations are not government-controlled.
How is the trade case win good for metal buying organizations? Continued in Part Two.