Is Imported Aluminum Not What It Seems?

Aluminum is getting new attention as a strong lightweight material that has ample potential in aerospace, commercial, and automotive industries–especially as automakers look for ways of incorporating more efficient materials into cars and trucks. However, the demand for aluminum at lower and lower prices has many questioning how this material is sourced and handled, particularly when it comes from international providers.

As the world seeks out lighter and stronger materials for the production of all types of goods, the source of the cheapest aluminum is going to win even more business. But when it comes to material integrity and handling, cheaper aluminum imports could be costing American businesses more than they realize.

Aluminium_bar_surfaceImage Source: Wikimedia

The Real Price Of Low Cost
A considerable quantity of aluminum comes from China. This has amounted to tough competition for U.S based aluminum producers, especially as these imports can be offered for a lot less than domestic supplies. Even if aluminum customers aren’t facing as much in cost, they could be paying in another way.

Some U.S. based aluminum companies and organizations suspect that Chinese aluminum producers are mislabeling their exports and subsequently flooding the international market and driving down the value of this essential material.

Push For An Investigation On Imports
Recently, the Aluminum Association has filed a complaint with a unit of the U.S. Trade Representative and has pushed for a federal investigation of Chinese aluminum producers. The related allegations state that some importers are improperly labeling primary aluminum as semi-fabricated in order to bypass an export tax on the former. The incorrectly labeled aluminum is then being remelted into primary aluminum later on down the supply line.

aluminium plant Image Source: Reuters

A Global Ripple Effect 
In addition to misrepresenting the state of the imported aluminum, U.S. suppliers are concerned that such actions unfairly disadvantage North American material producers. The Aluminum Association’s complaint represents the industry’s strongest official action of China’s aluminum exports to date.

While many goods manufacturers greatly benefit from cheaper aluminum, the domestic companies that supply it are facing considerable challenges as a result of China’s exporting. Some have even had to cutback or halt production as a result.

Have cheap aluminum imports or other materials hurt or helped your manufacturing process? Do you think anything will result from the Aluminum Association’s call for investigation? Tell us your thoughts on this issue in the comments.

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James Spader

Comes from a long line of American manufacturers and small business owners. His passions have always been journalism and World War II history. When not working, he enjoys cooking and competing in amateur chess tournaments.

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