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Glass and Metal Products See Drop in Chinese Imports

Post Time:Mar 10,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:292

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 materials.

"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," 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."

Source: USGNN.comAuthor: shangyi

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