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Europe Takes Steps to Combat Unfair Trade from China

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The European Commission announced aluminum extrusions from China will be subject to registration by national customs authorities as of August 25th, 2020, as part of an ongoing antidumping investigation.

On February 14th, the European Commission opened an antidumping investigation into aluminum extrusions originating from China — following a complaint made by European Aluminium. The complaint alleged that its member companies are being negatively impacted by the dumping of Chinese aluminum extrusions. According to European Aluminium, Chinese imports of extrusions have reached a significant market share and Chinese imports of semi-fabricated aluminum products have more than doubled in the past five years.

With this new announcement, the European Commission has directed the customs authorities to take the appropriate steps to register imports, so that antidumping measures may be subsequently (and retroactively) applied against those imports from the date of registration. The products subject to the registration include bars, rods, profiles (solid and hollow), tubes, and pipes — which are unassembled and whether or not they are prepared for use in structures (e.g. cut-to-length, drilled, bent, chamfered, threaded). The extruded products include those made from aluminum, alloyed or not, containing not more than 99.3% of aluminum.

European Aluminium commends this move and urges the Commission to adopt effective antidumping duties as soon as possible. “We applaud the Commission for taking this necessary and bold measure,” said Gerd Götz, European Aluminium’s director general. “This clearly underlines the Commission’s commitment to protecting the European aluminum industry from the damaging effects of unfair trade. We hope the registration measure will very soon be followed by effective antidumping measures that can more structurally address these issues.”

Flat Rolled Aluminum

The European Commission also recently opened an antidumping investigation into certain aluminum flat rolled products originating from China, following a complaint by European Aluminium.

“With this new investigation into aluminium flat rolled products, the largest share of the aluminum imports is under scrutiny,” said Götz. “It’s obvious that Chinese firms aren’t respecting the global rules of free and fair trade and the numbers show they are dumping more and more products on our market. The volumes of excess capacity they have built up are so massive, they could replace the entire European aluminum production.”

According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “Measuring distortions in international markets: the aluminium value chain,” Chinese producers are recipients of vast amounts of state subsidies, which stimulates them to increase production and allows them to offer products below production costs on the international market. According to the report, global aluminum companies have received up to US$70 billion in different forms of support over the 2013-2017 period. Notably, 85% of the documented subsidies went to just five Chinese firms.

According to European Aluminium, flat rolled aluminum imports (of the type included in the scope of the investigation) into the EU from China increased from 171,000 tonnes in 2016 to 330,000 tonnes last year. In 2019, the market share of these imports from China reached more than 12% and had doubled compared to four years ago. They noted that subsidized aluminum production in China undermines European production, distorts global markets, and depresses global aluminum prices — threatening the competitiveness of the European aluminum industry, while undermining its sustainability ambitions.

Furthermore, the influx of dumped products to Europe jeopardizes European investments in decarbonization and recycling. The carbon intensity of the primary aluminum production in Europe is approximately 7 kg CO2e per kg of aluminum produced, compared to a global average of 17 kg CO2e per kg of aluminum and a Chinese average of 20 kg CO2e per kg. Furthermore, European aluminum production complies with much higher standards when it comes to the environment (e.g. industrial emissions and waste), social and human rights, governance and transparency rules.

European Aluminium urges the European Commission to follow through with appropriate antidumping measures to minimize the harmful effects of unfairly priced Chinese imports of flat rolled aluminum. “We commend the European Commission for opening the investigation, which, together with the ongoing extrusions case, will help ensure the survival of the European aluminum value chain,” said Götz. “The EU has given China too much leeway already and still largely remains unprotected against dumped Chinese aluminum products. Now the EU must act decisively and rapidly to ensure the survival of the European aluminum value chain, which is critical to low carbon applications including renewable energy, batteries, electricity systems, resource-efficient packaging, energy-efficient buildings, and clean mobility.”

The Aluminum Association also expressed its support of the European Commission’s decision. “Opening this case sends another important signal to China that the rules-based global trading world takes enforcement seriously and will no longer tolerate an industrial policy that drives massive aluminum overcapacity and unfair dumping,” said Tom Dobbins, president & CEO of the Association. “China’s well-documented pattern of providing enormous financial subsidies to its aluminum producers distorts markets and harms companies — at home and abroad — that play by the rules. The U.S. should consider working with partners in the EU and elsewhere — including other governments that may be considering similar investigations — to tell China enough is enough.”

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