Roughly four years ago, the Department of Commerce imposed anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports of aluminum extrusions from China to give domestic extruders a fairer share of the market. According to one study, it’s worked out well for U.S. extruders, though the contest is far from over.

Ducker Worldwide, an independent consulting and research firm, recently conducted a study for the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) to explore how the Department of Commerce’s trade order has affected the industry.

According to Nick Limb, managing principal of Ducker, the study shows that Chinese imports peaked at more than 20 percent of domestic demand in late 2009 and early 2010. However, they “fell rapidly to less than 1 percent after the (trade) orders took effect in October 2010.”

Adds Abey Abraham, project director at Ducker, “With the exception of a small number of niche extruders, a majority of domestic suppliers experienced 10- to 20-percent growth attributable to the return of customers that previously purchased from Chinese extruders.”

While conducting trade data analysis, Ducker looked at things such as pounds imported, prices on pounds and how those shipments deteriorated due to price increases associated with the tariffs. They also conducted anonymous interviews with end users and customers, asking if they would go back to Chinese extruders if the tariffs went away.

“They were essentially able to draw a supply-and-demand curve,” says Jeff Henderson, director of operations at AEC. “… And they confirmed that what really drove the Chinese market share was the price.”

Details of the report will be reviewed in a webinar on Dec. 17, but Henderson says it shows that certain sectors and applications of the aluminum industry were more vulnerable than others, including the residential sector. The Ducker study also took the political pulse regarding the trade orders, as the U.S. aluminum extrusion industry is more involved in the lobbying and trade committee arenas of late.

Henderson cautions that the industry must remain “vigilant,” as Chinese extruders continue to respond “like all competitors would.”

“If a U.S. extruder believes they are not vulnerable to Chinese competitors because they haven’t lost business in the past, they should reconsider their strategy and current market share,” he says. “It is clear that Chinese extruders are focused on identifying avenues to penetrate the U.S. market and gain market share. A major takeaway from customer interviews conducted is the right price and product will win business in the future.”

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