Customs Says Columbia Aluminum Products Didn’t Participate in Unfair Trade Practices After All

March 7th, 2024 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a final remand and redetermination, reversing its prior position over possible evasion of U.S. antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders by Columbia Aluminum Products LLC (Columbia). The agency now says it will terminate interim measures imposed on Columbia in May 2018 and process refunds of any cash deposits associated with the case.

After CBP issued a determination against the company in March 2019, the U.S. Court of International Trade said CBP erred in its determination. The agency has since revisited the investigation, declaring that Columbia’s door thresholds do not constitute covered merchandise. The agency further determined that Columbia did not enter covered merchandise into the U.S. through evasion.

How It All Began

In February 2018, CBP initiated an investigation into Columbia’s import practices, based on allegations submitted by Endura Products Inc. The agency later announced interim measures against Columbia, initially determining that the company possibly evaded AD/CVD orders by importing aluminum door thresholds from China while misclassifying them as “plastic wall plates.” Endura further alleged that Columbia was evading duties by importing material subject to the AD/CVD orders on aluminum extrusions transshipped through Vietnam from China.

In May 2018, CBP announced it found reasonable suspicion of evasion. Articles impacted include those entered or withdrawn from a warehouse for consumption from January 19, 2017, through the pendency of CBP’s investigation.

In March 2019, CBP issued a determination, finding that the company’s imports entered the U.S. through evasion. Columbia then challenged CBP’s determination by requesting an administrative review. CBP’s Regulations and Rulings Directorate (R&R) affirmed in part and reversed in part its determination. But the U.S. Court of International Trade begged to differ, setting aside CBP’s determination and the administrative review as a matter of law, declaring that CBP erred in its determination. According to court opinion, although partially assembled merchandise containing an aluminum extrusion was subject to AD/CVD orders, “nothing in the orders provides that an assembled good produced in a third country and incorporating a Chinese-origin aluminum extrusion as a component part is within the scope that the orders specify.”

Regarding its administrative review, the court found that by relying on U.S. Department of Commerce’s circumvention determinations, R&R committed an error of law.

Now What?

Following additional investigation, CBP has since declared, “Consistent with the Court’s interpretation of the scope of the AD/CVD orders and the scope ruling, CBP finds that the door thresholds imported by Columbia during the period of investigation did not constitute covered merchandise.”

In its March 2019 determination, CBP officials said they relied on the information obtained during an onsite verification of Columbia’s Vietnamese supplier, Houztek Architectural Products Inc. The evidence on record showed that Houztek used plastic components and extruded aluminum to assemble door thresholds in its facility. CBP’s examination found that Houztek was using extruded aluminum imported from China. In the administrative review, R&R found that the door thresholds were completed or assembled in Vietnam using Chinese-origin aluminum, but in the remand order the court held that AD/CVD orders do not apply to merchandise that is assembled in the third country using aluminum extruded in China. Since Columbia’s thresholds are assembled in Vietnam, using extruded aluminum from China, and other non-aluminum extrusion components, just as the court determined, the merchandise is not subject to the AD/CVD orders and does not constitute covered merchandise, CBP since declared.

CBP concludes that Columbia correctly entered merchandise and no AD/CVD duties are applicable, reversing its March 2019 determination and the administrative review.

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