Lion asked the ITC to look at the period from 2019 to 2021 in finding potential dumping and underselling of product from the three nations. The petition covered grades of ESBR included in the IISRP 1500 and 1700 series of synthetic rubbers sold in all solid forms. While primarily used in tire manufacturing, it also is used in such products as conveyor belts, shoe soles, hose, roller coverings and flooring.
The investigation into Italian imports was concluded this past spring, with the Department of Commerce proposing an antidumping rate of 29 percent on ESBR produced by Italy's Versalis S.p.A.
Lion, which has production facilities in Port Neches and Orange, Texas, and Geismar, La., previously had pursued an antidumping case in 2016 against ESBR imported from Brazil, Mexico, Poland and South Korea.
The Department of Commerce and ITC ruled in its favor, and imposed dumping margins of 19.61 percent for Brazil, 19.52 percent for Mexico, 25.43 percent for Poland, and ranging from 9.66 to 44.30 percent for South Korea.
The ITC, in fact, just voted Nov. 4 to conduct a sunset review of those duties.
"As a result of the affirmative determination in that case, market conditions markedly improved in 2018," Rikhoff said in his testimony. "But unfortunately, these conditions did not persist. Since 2019, unfairly priced subject imports have again surged into the U.S. market, quickly replacing the imports included in the earlier antidumping duty order.
"It is, in short, deja vu for the domestic industry. We are seeing much of the same in terms of the predatory commercial practices the commission observed in the earlier investigation."
In his testimony, Rikhoff characterized ESBR as a highly commoditized synthetic rubber material that is "broadly interchangeable, regardless of supply source."
"Our Port Neches plant produces one of the most diverse and expansive portfolios of ESBR across the globe, including 1500- and 1700-series ESBR currently sold in the U.S. market," he said. "And imports from the Czech Republic and Russia compete unfairly against these specific grades."
Rikhoff said that for two years after the relief granted by the ITC in 2017, the domestic industry increased production, shipments, hired more workers and, "finally," turned a profit.
But starting in 2017, Lion saw increased volumes of low-priced imports from the Czech Republic and Russia. He said the imports in question jumped by nearly 550 percent, with the import volume nearly equivalent to the corresponding decrease in import volume from Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Poland.
"The result in this surge in subject imports has been devastating to the domestic industry," Rikhoff said. "... The data are clear, from 2019 to 2021 Lion has operated increasingly in the red, as low-priced subject imports have squeezed us on cost, while we produced less, sold less and employed fewer people."
He added that the "conversion price"—the amount of revenues over raw material and other fixed costs—moved up in 2018 after the relief in the prior case, and then fell each year from 2019-21. "We cannot continue to run a business where we lose money on each unit of product produced," he said.
Sherry Ballard, Lion Elastomers accounting manager, also testified to the impact of the alleged dumping on Lion's finances. She also tried to counter the opposition's claim that two events—Winter Storm Uri in 2021 and the November 2019 explosion at the TPC Group plant in Port Neches—severely compromised Lion's ability to serve the market.
"We cannot claim that these two events did not disrupt our day-to-day activities," Ballard said. "But I believe it would be fundamentally incorrect for the commission to unduly focus on these events when dumped imports have persistently impacted our financial performance through the (period of investigation), especially in light of the limited nature of the disruptions caused by these events."