PORTLAND, Maine — Federal trade officials have issued a victory to a Mechanic Falls industrial textile maker, issuing a preliminary finding that Chinese importers of silica fabrics are getting a subsidy worth slightly more than the full cost of their products.
The U.S. International Trade Administration last week issued its preliminary ruling on the first part of a petition from Auburn Manufacturing Inc., which makes a variety of textile products for extreme temperature applications.
The ITA report follows the U.S. International Trade Commission’s finding in March that the imports of amorphous silica fabric are likely unfair and harming U.S. producers.
In a written statement, Auburn Manufacturing President and CEO Kathie Leonard said she believes further investigation will find that tariff rates on those imports should be higher.
“Such findings will help Maine workers and our customers who depend on using our products where fire safety is critical,” Leonard said.
The company in January filed its petition for an investigation with trade officials.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said in a news release that the decision “win for these Maine jobs.”
Auburn Manufacturing employs 48 people. Poliquin and the other members of Maine’s congressional delegation urged the ITC and ITA to investigate.
The Mechanic Falls-based company also has complained that the imports fail to comply with federal requirements for the U.S. Department of Defense to buy only textiles that have at least 50 percent of U.S.-made content.
In its decision, the ITA said in its preliminary finding that it can counteract subsidies to Chinese producers of silica fabric at a rate of 104.1 percent of the value of those imported products.
The review was based on investigations that centered on two producers, ACIT Pinghu and Nanjing Tianyan Fiberglass Material Co. The ITA wrote the two companies were the largest exporters of competing silica fabrics during 2015, the period of the investigation.
The ITA sent questionnaires to a total of 53 companies, to which it said five responded. The low level of responses, it said, allows the administration to look to other information and past cases to determine its preliminary subsidy rate.
The Commerce Department said it intends to issue a final decision in both its antidumping and countervailing duty investigations for the silica fabrics by Nov. 7.