WASHINGTON – One-piece stainless-steel sinks from China may get more expensive later this year, depending on a federal investigation.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) agreed with U.S. sink producers that there’s a reasonable indication of the domestic industry being materially injured from Chinese imports allegedly subsidized and sold domestically at less than fair value.
The commission voted 6-0 in the affirmative to a petition brought last month by Elkay Manufacturing Co. on behalf of itself and Franke Consumer Products Inc., Just Manufacuring, Moen Inc., and Kohler Co.
The Commerce Department will continue an investigation on the imports, with an eye on assessing additional duties. A report to determine countervailing duties is due by May 25, with an additional report for antidumping duties on Aug. 8.
If approved, the duties -- assessed at U.S. ports-of-entry as an import tax -- would increase the cost of most Chinese stainless-steel sinks, which have been used by fabricators as a strong value-added tool in selling countertops.
The commission looked at imports of “drawn” stainless-steel sinks with seamless basins and rim shaped “shaped by forming (drawing), punching, and stamping operations from a single stainless-steel sheet blank.” The definition included drop-in and undermount configurations.
The initial findings from the USITC noted stainless-steel-sink imports of $119.1 million from China last year. The commission also noted six U.S. producers in seven states, and a total of $303.9 million in apparent U.S. consumption of the product.
Data relating to the number of U.S. employees making stainless-steel sinks, however, was withheld from the commission’s findings to “avoid revealing business proprietary information.” The USITC cited the same reason in also withholding the ratio of value of total U.S. imports to total U.S. consumption of sinks, as well as the value of imports from any other country other than China in 2011.
In a press release announcing the March 1 petition, however, Elkay noted three production plants in Broadview, Ill., Lumberton, N.C. and Ogden, Utah, that “collectively provide over 500 jobs.” Elkay’s petition also that Franke produces sinks in Ruston, La., and Moen’s factory is in Pine Grove, Pa., and that Kohler closed a facility in Searcy, Ark., in 2009 with the loss of 57 jobs.
Much of the documentation offered in support of the U.S. producers’ petition – hundreds of pages – included similar withholding on grounds of proprietary information, with entire pages redacted of any identifying data, including values, the names of employees attesting to the values, the location of plants where the employees worked and the companies owning the plants.
One piece of documentation submitted by producers, without any redactions, showed 93 different companies “that may be U.S. importers” of drawn stainless-sinks from China. The list included all the U.S. producers cited in the petitions, along with major retailers such as Lowe’s Co., Menard Inc. and IKEA Holdings US Inc.
The “may be U.S. importers” list also cited companies supplying the stone industry in direct sales or through wholesale channels, including Amerisink Inc., Artisan Manufacturing Corp., Blanco America, Braxton-Bragg Corp., C-Tech-I Inc., Chemcore Industries Inc., Cosentino USA, Domain Industries, Eclipse Distribution LLC, Lansen (Karran USA) and M R Direct Inc.
The petition’s supporting documents also cite more than 90 Chinese producers and exporters of the one-piece stainless-steel sinks.
The Commission's public report [Drawn Stainless Steel Sinks from China (Investigation Nos. 701-TA-489 and 731-TA-1201 (Preliminary), USITC Publication 4317, April 2012] will contain the views of the Commission and information developed during the investigations, and are due to the Commerce Department by April 23.
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