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At the helm: Aluminum sheet issue needs decisive response

By Tim Hennagir

Marine manufacturers and the boating industry will suffer great harm if the U.S. Department of Commerce is successful with its aluminum trade practices case against China.

Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the “self-initiation” of the unfair trade case against common alloy aluminum sheet in late November. 

The National Marine Manufacturers Association quickly sprang into legislative action, closely monitoring the issue throughout December, as well as conducting a January webinar detailing a decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission to continue its antidumping and countervailing duty investigations of common alloy aluminum sheet from China that’s impacting the recreational boating industry. “The last self-initiated case was almost 30 years ago,” said Nicole Vasilaros, NMMA’s vice president of federal and legal affairs. 

The issue continues to evolve; the proposed tariff on a critical raw material would have a highly negative impact on the industry and affect thousands of jobs.

According to the NMMA, import duties of 60 percent or higher could directly impact 8,000 marine manufacturing jobs, 10,000 related dealer jobs, and 12,000 related boating manufacturing jobs. That compares with 3,700 jobs held by employees at aluminum supply companies.

NMMA secured a series of late February meetings on Capitol Hill and with the U.S. Department of Commerce to explain the industry’s position and concerns.

Import duties could disrupt supply and raise costs for aluminum sheet from all sources, Vasilaros reported in a recent email to association members. 

In 2016, a total of 110,000 aluminum power boats were sold, representing 43 percent of the market.  The same year, 35,000 pontoon boats were sold, representing 14 percent of the market, and 205,000 boat trailers were sold.

NMMA is correct in stating that domestic industry is not injured by imports of Chinese aluminum. Marine manufacturers require wide-sheet aluminum that’s not readily available by U.S. producers, and U.S. mills are at or near capacity and can’t meet demand. 

 “We need to make sure our side of the story gets told,” Vasilaros said during the webinar. “We know the U.S. aluminum industry is actively out there telling its side of the story. It’s so important that you [webinar participants] offer your company’s perspective.”

NMMA is encouraging industry stakeholders to send a letter to their legislators, telling them to stop the unnecessary burden that the proposed aluminum sheet tariff would place on marine manufacturers. 

Final determinations by the Commerce Department are scheduled for April for the countervailing duty investigation, and July for the anti-dumping investigation. Those dates can be extended.  

 

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