and Metal Products See Drop in Chinese Imports
March 9, 2009
Not so long ago many glass and curtainwall companies in the United
States were struggling with increasing competition from Chinese
imports. According to U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade statistics,
glass imports (excluding automotive) jumped $330,196 in 2004 to
$477,906 in 2007. The spike in aluminum products imported into the
United States was even more significant, going from $178,955 in
2004 to $658,337 in 2007.
However, the 2008 statistics dropped in both categories, with glass
imports totaling $443,659 and aluminum at $618,039. The decrease
may not be a substantial one, but both contract glaziers and suppliers
say they have indeed noticed the decline.
Just what is it that has caused the drop in Chinese imports? Current
economic conditions might come to mind first, but some in the industry
say it's due to more than just slow commercial construction.
John Shum, vice president of Sierra Glass and Mirror in Las Vegas,
says in his area they noticed a decline in Chinese imports even
before the current economic conditions, which, he adds, slowly but
surely have put a halt to most major projects.
"But for many projects still in progress here, Chinese products
are still being used because they were brought in a couple of years
ago," says Shum, who adds that for the most part, the decline
is probably because of the poor experiences had by many of those
who participated in the Chinese import projects. Shum says a developer
that had used Chinese curtainwall on his last tower awarded a project
to his company because that developer didn't want to go through
the pain-staking process of obtaining final completion with Chinese
"I spoke with this developer and he had the same problem we
had on our last Chinese venture, which was getting all the missing
pieces to complete the project. Although the Chinese may be able
to produce the product (that is either missing or incorrect) in
a timely manner, the four weeks of travel and customs is not always
favorable to the end result of finishing the building on time. Because
of the time restraints, we were forced to pay an additional $45,000
in airfreight charges on our project," adds Shum.
On the supplier side, Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing
for Arch Aluminum and Glass, agrees that they, too, have seen the
imports drop because people were growing concerned with the fact
that there was not a good way to work through any issues that could
occur on the project.
"If you had any sort of problem or situation, you were really
on your own. However, cheap imports from places such as Colombia
still come in at alarming rates and that's becoming a bigger issue,"
says Perilstein. "When times improve, I could see the imports
from China increase again because there's always someone out there
who thinks this is the best deal and best situation for their company-until
they get burned that is."
Perilstein adds that shipping of glass and metal from China has
also gotten more expensive and difficult.
"Glass and metal are heavy products and the importers would
rather ship lightweight products, such as computer accessories,
because they can ship a lot more of it," he adds.
Gary Taylor, marketing administrator for United States Aluminum,
agrees that the import of aluminum and glass from China has reduced,
and will continue to do so. He says there are a couple of issues
that will affect Chinese imports: anti-dumping laws and LEED.
"I know last year, Canada had an inquiry into the largest
anti-dumping grievance ever filed in the country. It was alleged
that China was subsidizing and dumping aluminum extrusions on the
Canadian market (CLICK
HERE to read more)," says Taylor. "Second, what has
been the largest growing trend in our industry over the last few
years? Green building/LEED, which will be another obstacle for Chinese
imports. Bringing material in from the far side of the world certainly
creates a carbon footprint that is hard to correlate with the spirit
of green building."
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