Critical time for U.S. boating industry to weigh in on tariffs

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Experts say it’s the last chance to overturn the Section 232 tariff on common alloy aluminum sheet, used for building pontoons and aluminum fishing boats.

Experts say it’s the last chance to overturn the Section 232 tariff on common alloy aluminum sheet, used for building pontoons and aluminum fishing boats.

The marine industry is up against its final opportunity to alleviate the 120 percent tariff on common alloy aluminum sheet from China.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association and a legal team the group has retained are appealing to the industry to fill out questionnaires showing how they’ve been impacted by the pending tariffs. They also want boat builders, equipment manufacturers, boat dealers and any other industry parties to explain whether domestic supply shortages affect where they source aluminum. The questionnaires will be presented to the International Trade Commission.

“The ITC has the final say this fall on aluminum tariffs,” said Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of government and legal affairs, during a webinar on Wednesday about the Section 232 tariffs. “This is really our only chance to alleviate that.”

The marine industry has experienced strong demand and growth in recent years, so builders should explain the burden on demand, said Kristin Mowry, a trade and market access partner at Mowry & Grimson.

“If you have any experience with being unable to source aluminum sheet domestically, or with mills that have turned down your orders — any emails or correspondence that shows that — we want to hear from you,” said Mowry.

Mowry and Vasilaros made the request to vet the questionnaires before they are submitted to the ITC. The ITC submission deadline is Aug. 31.

Mowry also appealed to impacted industry firms to attend ITC hearings scheduled for Oct. 30. “We’re looking for someone who has been repeatedly denied access from domestic mills, or to explain if there’s a difference in the product that makes the Chinese product better,” said Mowry.

“There's also an opportunity to do a confidential affidavit if you’re in a position where you have something to say, but don’t want to be a witness,” said Vasilaros. That might include builders who source aluminum from China and domestically, but don’t want to jeopardize the relationship with the domestic supplier by testifying in public.

“This is a story of tariffs destroying American manufacturing,” said Mowry. “If we are trying to protect manufacturing and protect our way of life, we need to stop them from going into place. Even if you’ve never bought a single piece of aluminum sheet from China, you know this has emboldened the domestic suppliers to raise prices. That’s another great story to tell.”

Mowry acknowledged that the tariffs on aluminum are an “extremely difficult burden” that removes resources from builders and equipment manufacturers. “We feel your pain,” she said. “We’re here to help, but it is extremely important to weigh in so we can win this fight.”

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