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U.S. ITC rules affirmatively on ductile iron waterwork fittings case.

In December, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) affirmed a Section 421 complaint against Chinese imports and made a unanimous, affirmative determination, finding that certain cast ductile iron waterworks fittings from China are being imported into the U.S. in such increased quantities or under such conditions as to cause market disruption to the domestic producers of like or directly competitive products.

The Section 421 investigation, instigated by McWane Inc., Birmingham, Ala., analyzed Chinese imports of cast pipe or tube fittings of ductile iron with mechanical, push-on or flanged joints attached. Included within this definition are fittings of all nominal diameters and of both full-bodied and compact designs.

Under Section 421, a domestic producer can obtain relief if the ITC finds that Chinese products are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities or under such conditions as to cause, or threaten to cause, market disruption to the domestic producers of like or directly competitive products.

Section 421 was added to the Trade Act of 1974 through the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000, which established permanent normal trade relations with China and paved the way for its accession to the World Trade Organization.

As a result of the affirmative determination, the ITC sent its report, including its remedy proposal, to the President and the U.S. Trade Representative in December 2003. The President will make the final decision on whether to provide import relief to the industry and the type and duration of any such relief. To date, the President has ruled against all three previous 421 cases.

While a 421 case only examines a particular product for market disturbance, the issues raised in this case are symbolic for the foundry industry. This ruling and subsequent affirmation by the President, as well as the findings of the proposed metalcasting industry Section 332 fact-finding investigation will be crucial in sending the message to Chinese competitors that the U.S. will not allow the market to be damaged by a flood of cheap imports.

While awaiting a decision on the Section 421 complaint, U.S. manufacturers also are waiting for the release of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce's manufacturing strategy report. The report was originally scheduled to be released in September but is still in the draft stages and may not be released until January, if not later. Grant Aldonas, Under Secretary for International Trade, drafted the strategy report following an in-depth, cross-country tour this summer. It was hoped the report would be the first step in identifying solutions to the devastating slide domestic manufacturers have been experiencing over the past three years.

According to sources, the report has met some snags in a review process and other problems the administration has identified regarding the government's role in helping metalcasting, included in that is balancing the desires of the larger companies that benefit from producing overseas versus those that produce in the U.S.

The Administration also realizes that any move to help manufacturing could easily backfire much the same way the recently rescinded steel tariffs did.

The postponement of the release of the Administration's manufacturing strategy is adding to skepticism from critics that say the report may never be printed as the Bush Administration is insisting that U.S. economic conditions have improved. According to the skeptics, the President feels a period of economic growth is what manufacturing needs to improve its economic status.
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Title Annotation:Washington alert: AFS Government Affairs Representative--Waterman & Axxoc., Washingotn, D.C.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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