The alarm goes off at 4:50 a.m. for a 6:30 flight to D.C. I have been waiting for this day now for almost six months. The final hearing for “Drawn Stainless Steel Sinks from China” is taking place at 9:30 a.m. After some planes, trains, and automobiles, I arrive at the International Trade Commission with about an hour to spare before the first session begins. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, an army of petitioners and legal councilors trickle in with their game faces on. I nod with a polite smile and in return I receive a reluctant grin. To kill the time, I review the affirmative final determinations in the antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of imports of drawn stainless steel sinks from China (Fact Sheet PDF) that had arrived the night before. As a respondent and member of the original sink importers coalition from the preliminary hearing, it felt nice to now be a lowly spectator. We moved our production to Korea. No longer part of the coalition, the outcome of this hearing will have no direct effect on our business. I could sit calmly and watch the exchange.
The Chairman called the hearing to order. The lead council for Elkay Manufacturing Company made his opening remarks. I remembered
him from the preliminary hearing with what I would call his signature habit of chewing on his pen. For some reason it worked for him. You believed that that pen had power. He confidently managed his clients and painted a metaphorical picture of an injured company. The final was no different. He began by introducing Ronald Katz, the Chairman of the Board for Elkay Manufacturing Company. He is not only the chairman but as I remember, the grandson of the founder, Leopold Katz. He told a wonderful American dream true-story of working in the factory and eventually becoming Chairman of the Board. From history, to workers’ stories, and then layoffs, he brought the human side to the testimony. The next to testify was Stephen Rogers, Chief Operating Officer. His testimony consisted of the facts and figures, automation, and possible plant closings. We saw videos of the sink manufacturing process and automated sink plants being run by robots. Huge bar graphs depicting the increase in Chinese imports were there to highlight the “Chinese trade war”.
After a while I became numb to the testimony and questioning. I definitely had time on my hands. My flight was not until 5:30 p.m. I looked at my notes and drew up my own questions hoping that the Commissioners would have the same ones. The question I kept coming ba
ck to was, “Is this a David and Goliath story?” If so, who is David and who is Goliath? Is Elkay Manufacturing David and the Chinese factories Goliath? Or is Elkay Goliath and the American importers David? Either way you write it, all parties have been hurt and the trade war continues.
Nantucket Sinks USA
Look for my next post. “Typing With Thumbs, Trade Wars, and the American Dream”