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China launches antidumping investigation on US PVC

Highlights

Probe comes after China lifted such duties in September 2019

Chinese producers asked in April for duties to be revived

Houston — China has launched an antidumping investigation into US-origin polyvinyl chloride imports, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said Sept. 25.

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The ministry said the investigation should "normally" be finished in a year's time on Sept. 25, 2021, but could be extended to March 25, 2022.

The announcement did not say why China launched the investigation.

The probe comes nearly a year after China formally withdrew antidumping duties on PVC from the US, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan as of Sept. 29, 2019. China, which first added the duty on PVC in 2003, levied a rate of 11%-83% on US PVC.

However, costs of receiving those flows from the US could be recouped by exporting products made with it, so the duties did not deter importers. China is the No. 2 export market for US PVC behind Canada, according to the US International Trade Commission data.

PVC is a construction staple used to make pipes, window frames, vinyl siding and other products.

Chinese PVC producers

In April, Chinese PVC makers revived their demand to impose antidumping duties on US PVC imports as the two economies battled financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asian market sources had said at the time that Chinese PVC manufacturers were concerned that a large influx of US PVC may hurt local producers, particularly the carbide-based PVC sector, which was facing high coal feedstock prices.

USITC data showed US PVC flows to China reached 169,181 mt in the first seven months of 2020, down 11.8% compared with the same span in 2019. Overall US PVC export flows were 14.8% lower in the January-July period of 2020 compared with the year-ago period at 1.5 million mt, the data showed.

Monthly USITC data showed US PVC flows to China in January-April 2019 reached 121,440 mt, sharply higher than 68,494 mt during those four months in 2020, reflecting China's widespread pandemic-related shutdowns in the early months of the virus' spread. US producers also reduced rates in April when shutdowns crushed domestic and global demand, and buying appetite plunged.

However, that trend flipped in May-July when shutdowns eased and demand strengthened. China received 100,687 mt in those three months, up 43% from 70,376 mt in the same span of 2019, when the duties were still in effect.

PVC prices in China and the US reached 11- and 12-year lows in April, respectively, amid the crash in PVC demand. The CFR China price hit $620/mt, while the US FAS Houston marker hit $520/mt.

Since then, prices have roared back amid strong demand and tight supply. S&P Global Platts last assessed the CFR China price at $970/mt Sept. 23, up more than 56% from that April low. The FAS Houston price was last assessed on Sept. 23 as well at $1,050/mt -- more than double the April low.