HOUSTON (ICIS)–The US International Trade Commission (ITC) this week voted to renew antidumping duties on polyethylene (PE) retail carrier bags after determining that allowing the tariffs to expire would harm US manufacturers.
The duties, covering bags from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, are subject to review by the ITC every five years. The commission voted 6-0 in favour of renewing the duties.
The plastic bag industry began to focus on cheaper imports at least 15 years ago, when the influx of products from Asia more than doubled from 2001 to 2003, according to commission testimony in February from Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) industry group.
That led to anti-dumping duties against China, Malaysia and Thailand, but the problem still remained.
“Instead,” Daniels testified, “market share was simply shifted to Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam.”
Other anti-dumping orders have expanded the list to six countries that must pay the tariffs.
The US plastic bag industry employs 24,600 American workers in more than 40 states, according to the APBA.
Texas, the hub for the US petrochemical industry that makes the high-density (HDPE) used for the bags, also is home to 38 bag manufacturers that employ about 4,600 workers, the most of any state, according to government employment statistics compiled by the Society of the Plastics Industry.
Industry data show that plastic retail bags accounted for roughly 4% of HDPE production in February, according to data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC).
North American retail bag production increased almost 5% in February, but in the first two months this year declined by 3.5% from the same month in 2015.
Source: American Chemistry Council (ACC)
US bag makers have been fighting for survival on two fronts, though.
The “battle of the bag” as author Susan Freinkel called it in her book, “Plastic: A Toxic Love Story”, commenced in 2007 when San Francisco became the first US city to ban plastic grocery bags.
Since then, many US cities have enacted similar bans, opposed by Daniels’ group, which pushes recycling.
In his ITC testimony, Daniels referred to a statewide vote in California scheduled for November this year that could ban the bags there.
“It is unclear what the outcome of that referendum will be and what the demand impact would be if the ban were enacted,” he said.
However, Daniels made it clear that fighting the bag bans is not the most crucial battle for his industry.
Rapidly increasing low-priced imports from Asia, he said, are “something we cannot likely endure.”
Photo: California votes in November on a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags. (Most Wanted/REX/Shutterstock)
Focus article by Lane Kelley