Just because a major European neoprene supplier closed doesn't make Japanese imports any less dangerous to the one remaining U.S. producer of the rubber, the International Trade Commission said.
That's the reasoning behind the ITC's rejection of a request by Gates Corp. to lessen antidumping duties on Japanese polychloroprene rubber imports. The ITC ruled against a review of the 55-percent tariff in March-a victory for DuPont Performance Elastomers L.L.C.-and on April 7 gave the reasons for its decision.
Gates had requested the ITC revisit its decision to reaffirm the duties, saying circumstances had changed-namely, Polimeri Europa S.p.A.'s closure of its neoprene facility in France. Several other companies and trade groups supported Gates' contention.
But the ITC, in comments published in the ``Federal Register,'' said nothing had changed in the neoprene market other than the Polimeri Europa closing, and the agency's analysis wasn't altered.
``Indeed, it could be argued that Polimeri's withdrawal from the U.S. (neoprene) market makes it more likely that (Japanese) imports would be significant if the finding were revoked,'' the ITC said.
The agency said Polimeri's past share of the U.S. market indicated its withdrawal is very unlikely to lead to the elimination of all non-Japanese imports. Polimeri's share of the neoprene market, which the ITC said is proprietary information, wasn't disclosed.
Of greater importance to the ITC, it said, was the high substitutability of the Japanese neoprene for what DuPont Performance Elastomers makes in the U.S.; the pricing of Japanese imports in the original 1973 investigations; and the current pricing practices of Japanese neoprene makers in third-country markets.
Gates, Goodyear, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and several smaller rubber companies all argued before the ITC that with the Polimeri closing, shortages of neoprene are reaching disastrous proportions in the U.S. DuPont Performance Elastomers' plan to close its Louisville, Ky., neoprene plant and consolidate production at Pontchartrain, La., will make the shortage worse, they said.
But DuPont Performance Elastomers and Lanxess Corp., the only remaining major importer of neoprene to the U.S., argued there is no neoprene shortage, and that neoprene capacity coming on line soon in China will ensure strong continuing supplies.
A spokeswoman for the DuPont Co. subsidiary said the firm had no additional comment on the ITC decision.
Kevin Ott, vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association's General Products Group, said his member companies are disappointed by the ITC's reasoning.
``They dismissed any notion that the closing of the Polimeri Europa plant has any bearing on manufacturers' access to reasonably priced polychloroprene,'' Ott said. ``So, we will all have to live with the status quo, until there is another opportunity to pursue a review of this case, which won't be soon.''