A pontoon boat comes to Washington, D.C.

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Representatives from the boating industry on Tuesday spoke before a panel of the International Trade Commission, weighing the impact of tariffs on different U.S. manufacturers. The ITC panel was meeting to decide whether Chinese manufacturers are guilty of dumping aluminum in the United States to the detriment of domestic manufacturers.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association not only testified about the impact of steel and aluminum tariffs on the boating industry, but it also parked a Bennington SX20 pontoon outside the building. The boat was plastered with stickers noting percentages of cost increases that can be attributed to tariffs by the Trump administration on imported aluminum and steel.

Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of government and legal affairs, said that five of six members of the ITC panel went outside and walked around the boat during a lunch break. Vasilaros testified on behalf of the NMMA and the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers.

“NMMA estimates that 44 percent of all new boats sold in 2017, or 111,000, were aluminum-based, accounting for $3 billion in economic value,” Vasilaros said. “Domestic aluminum boat production accounts for nearly 22,000 marine industry jobs.”

Vasilaros told the committee that the combined effect of the ITC’s anti-dumping investigation has caused domestic prices of aluminum sheet to rise by 30 percent.

“The marine industry maintains global supply chains, and over 350 marine-related products, components and materials are also being subject to this administration’s 301 action, with 10 to 25 percent tariffs imposed,” Vasilaros said, noting that Canada, the European Union and Mexico, accounting for 70 percent of U.S. boat and engine exports, have placed retaliatory tariffs on American-built boats.

“The layering impact of these tariffs cannot be absorbed for much longer,” Vasilaros told the committee. “Some of these tariffs will likely be passed on to consumers, and for other manufacturers, employment changes are inevitable. These tariffs hurt the U.S. more than China by disrupting the profitability of U.S. businesses, employment opportunities and affordability of boating for American consumers.”

Bill Yeargin, CEO of Correct Craft, also spoke at the hearing. He said that its Sea Ark brand, which employs 153 Americans in Monticello, Ark., is “extremely worried that we will actually run out of aluminum sheet or that, if prices continue rising at these meteoric rates, we will lose customers entirely.”

Yeargin said that its current suppliers have said that they cannot provide the company with American-manufactured aluminum sheet in 2019. He also said prices have risen 30 to 40 percent in the last year.

“The price increases have made it extremely difficult for us to quote new orders to our dealers,” Yeargin said. “We normally would change our models in June of each year and establish pricing for the following January. Because of this case, we are unable to lock in pricing, which has scared off some dealers who do not want to place orders without knowing that they can price the boats next year at a level that would be purchased.”

Yeargin said that shortage and price increases will force it to source aluminum sheet outside the U.S. “This case will not increase the sale of domestic aluminum sheet. For us it will lead to the opposite. The impact of this case is devastating to our industry,” he said.

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