Top 5 Areas of Concern as ITC Kicks Off Aluminum 332 Investigation

This morning, the U.S. International Trade Commission kicks off its 332 investigation of the aluminum industry’s competitiveness in the global arena.

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Before the hearing, executives from Scepter, Inc., Novelis North AmericaHydro Metals USA and the Aluminum Association gave members of the press a preview of what the industry’s testimony before the ITC will sound like.

According to Aluminum Association President Heidi Brock’s testimony, the Commission should focus on 5 key areas:

  1. Needless production: Produce findings on the nature and extent of continued use of inefficient and antiquated facilities and the continued unwarranted expansion of greenfield capacity.
  2. Transparency: Highlight the need to obtain information and transparency about policies that encourage overcapacity including information about state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in the aluminum industry as well as SOEs that provide the industry with supplies, electric power, and services.
  3. Tax Policies: Investigate China’s tax policies on aluminum exports. Chinese traders are “gaming” the system such that primary aluminum that does not qualify for the tax rebate is making its way into the U.S. market disguised as a semi-fabricated product. How can China tighten its enforcement of the 15% export tax on primary aluminum and crack down on fake semis?
  4. Enforcement: Review the enforcement of countervailing duties/anti-dumping orders and research the impact of transshipments through third countries that circumvent those orders or other tariffs.
  5. Environmental Impacts: Examine the role of China’s aluminum industry in meeting the commitments China has made to reduce carbon emissions. China cannot meet its carbon reduction commitments without both eliminating energy subsidies and curtailing outdated, carbon-intensive production in the aluminum industry.

When MetalMiner asked Brock about how much data and information the AA currently has on Chinese state-organized enterprises and subsidization practices, per the second bullet point on transparency, her answer indicated that the domestic industry may still largely be in the dark regarding the details.

“It’s going to be a long process,” Brock said. “Compared to the U.S. industry, where we’ve been collecting and reporting [data] for decades now, our hope is that our Chinese colleagues commit to transparency in their markets.”

She mentioned that it is “frustrating” when China says they plan to cut capacity, and then turn around and go back on their word. For example, according to her testimony, one of the largest aluminum producers in China announced in October 2015 that it would curtail all of the capacity at one of its largest smelters due to low aluminum prices and the resulting losses. But the decision was reversed only a few weeks later when the local government offered significant discounts on critical inputs, such as power, in order to avoid the loss of local jobs.

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“We are out there selling our product, and we have seen low prices coming from outside,” said Marco Palmieri, president of Novelis North America. “That has caused significant issues — and [those issues are] real.”

The Commission is expected to deliver a final report based on this investigation in summer 2017.

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