Occidental, Clearon win trade victory.
In a June 28 decision, the U.S. International Trade Commission found sufficient cause to investigate unfair pricing tactics by Chinese and Spanish manufacturers and importers of pool chemicals.
After a lengthy hearing in early June, the ITC agreed with evidence presented by Occidental Chemical Corp. and Clearon Corp. Both firms want to see antidumping duties levied on chlorinated isocyanurates imported from China and Spain.
"Dumping involves two factors," said Joseph H. Price, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm representing the chemical companies. "The first is selling products in the U.S. at a lower price than in the home market or at below cost. The second factor is that those sales are injuring the domestic industry."
The antidumping petition alleged that underpriced imports have adversely affected the pool chemical business stateside. Occidental and Clearon officials claimed that the unfair practices of Chinese and Spanish chemical companies have forced them to sell their products below sustainable levels and operate without profits.
As a result of the decision, the U.S. Commerce Department was notified July 6 to continue its investigation of the dumping allegations, with preliminary findings due around Oct. 21. At that time, Commerce will impose preliminary dumping duties on common isos chemicals trichlor and dichlor imported from China and Spain.
"We're pleased with the decision," said David Stephenson, director of sales and marketing for Occidental's Chlorinated Isos Division. "Our goal is fair competition in the marketplace. Our profitability has been hurt; the return on our capital has deteriorated at the hands of this. It's no secret that the industry has lost business."
The estimated markdowns of bulk chlorinated isos from China range from 82 percent to 162 percent; Spain has smaller price cuts, from 15.4 percent to 43.9 percent. Simultaneously, the shipments of these products to the United States have more than tripled from 2001 to 2003.
"We're asking for a level playing field," said Tom Ravener, director of sales for pools/spas at Fort Lee, N.J.-based Clearon. Along with BioLab Inc., Occidental and Clearon are the only U.S. manufacturers of chlorinated isos.
The U.S. used 133,374 short tons, of $214.8 million, of chlorinated isos in 2003. Of this, about 26 percent was imported, mostly from China and Spain. The three U.S. firms produced the remaining 74 percent.
The petition identified two Spanish companies, Aragonesas Delsa S.A. and Inquide Flix, and 19 Chinese chemical companies as the primary manufacturers of the chemicals abroad. Lawrenceville, Ga.-based BioLab did not participate in the lawsuit because the manufacturer uses its own products and does not participate in the bulk commodities market, according to a company official.
Chlorinated isos are chlorine-containing derivatives of isocyanuric acid and are used as bleaching and disinfecting agents. In the United States, pool and spa sanitation accounts for 70 percent of the chlorinated isos market.