Agency slams quartz from China with continued duties

At Newnan-based fabrication firm- Mega Granite & Marble, employees prepare a slab for cutting.
At Newnan-based fabrication firm- Mega Granite & Marble, employees prepare a slab for cutting.

Credit: center

Credit: center

A federal agency on Tuesday ruled that imported Chinese quartz has been unfairly damaging American companies, concluding that costly duties on those goods are justified.

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. International Trade Commission agreed with most complaints originally brought by a Minnesota company, while rejecting arguments of many other firms – including a number in Georgia.

That action continues the fees requested by Cambria and imposed last fall by the Commerce Department .

As reported in May by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the fight involves a number of the state's firms and jobs. None of the Georgia companies took Cambria's side -- at least not publicly.

Cambria had charged that the Chinese government unfairly subsidized quartz rock and quartz slabs, which let them dominate the market and undercut competitors who used materials from other sources.

Cambria also alleged that Chinese quartz was being "dumped" on the U.S. market, that is, that vastly more product than needed was being exported here in an effort order to drive down prices.

Commerce had agreed with Cambria and slapped quartz from China with duties ranging up to 178% for unfair subsidies and up to 341% for “dumping.”

But the final decision was up to the ITC.

The duties were in addition to broader Trump administration tariffs of up to 25% on about $200 billion of Chinese imports including quartz.

However, the ITC rejected Cambria's call to impose the duties retroactively for 90 days prior to the Commerce Department's action.

Manufacturers combine quartz rocks and powder with various chemicals, resins and pigments to make slabs. The slabs are typically harder and less porous – and generally more expensive – than granite.

Roughly 25,000 American jobs depend on the production and fabrication -- that is, the cutting and shaping -- of quartz into countertops for kitchens and bathrooms.

The ITC decision was decried by the American Quartz Worker Coalition, which includes about 400 fabricators.

The group has maintained that the surge of Chinese imports was due to a tidal wave of U.S. demand for quartz, not to a deliberate oversupply.

“At the end of the day, Cambria’s litigious behavior means higher prices and limited choice for American consumers,” said a statement from the coalition.

Georgia has about 200 fabricators, according to industry sources.

The state's largest maker of quartz slabs is LG Hausys. The company is based in Atlanta but has production in Adairsville, with nearly 300 workers who produce quartz slabs 24 hours a day.

The magnitude of the duties imposed by the Commerce Department had effectively made Chinese quartz unaffordable.

LG Hausys officials said they had been buying raw materials – quartz rock – from China, but also some slabs from China, because of the demand. After the duties were imposed, the company turned to other countries as sources for raw materials and slabs.

Many importers have picked up the slack with imports mainly from Turkey and India.

In a statement Wednesday, Cambria CEO Marty Davis praised the ITC decision as a boon for American quartz producers who have been “devastated” by Chinese imports.

“With today’s decision, the ITC is affirming that foreign governments and producers who break the laws of international trade will be held accountable,” he said.

This spring, Cambria asked the Commerce Department to take action against quartz imports from Turkey and India. The Commerce Department has not yet moved on that request, but duties on Turkish and Indian quartz could be imposed by October, according to Davis.