The biggest news to hit the countertop fabrication industry in 2018 was the imposition of new antidumping duties on quartz produced in China, and now stakeholders with opposing views have taken up sides by lending support to one of two groups: the Italy-based World-Wide Agglomerated Stone Manufacturers Association (A.St.A.), and the domestic group of importers and fabricators known as the American Quartz Worker Coalition.
The first organization is closely tied to the antidumping duties on Chinese quartz because one of its leading members is Cambria, the company that filed the original petition on the behalf of all domestic engineered stone producers. Among the other 13 prominent members of A.St.A. are Caesarstone, Vicostone, Cosentino, Santamargherita, RMC, Quartzforms, LG Hausys, and TopZStone.
A.St.A. took its present form as an international “association of manufacturers of agglomerated stones” in 2015, and since that time, it has grown to become a prominent organization in the countertop industry and other construction-related industries.
In December, A.St.A released an official statement reaffirming the organization’s commitment to the countervailing and antidumping duties imposed on quartz imported to the U.S. from China. Currently, the preliminary countervailing duties are 34.38 percent for most Chinese quartz imports and 178.45 percent for quartz from two particular manufacturers. The antidumping duties, announced last November also range from 242 to 341 percent.
“A.St.A. World-Wide reaffirms its firm support of free and fair trade according to A.St.A.’s first and second articles of its statutes.
In particular, A.St.A. World-Wide supports the preliminary measures adopted by the United States Department of Commerce and by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), as part of their investigations, to impose duties on Chinese producers to protect fair trade in the industry.
In addition, A.St.A. World-Wide considers similar measures should be adopted in other jurisdictions like the European Union to guarantee competition in equal conditions for the industry’s and of the consumers’ benefit.”
According to the statement, the organization represents 14 producers from 10 countries and 15,000 direct employees.
Cosentino also released its own statement on the matter.
“Our company stands in support of fair and free trade,” said Eduardo Cosentino, CEO of Cosentino North America and EVP Global Sales for Cosentino Group. “We fully support fair and free trade and sincerely applaud all efforts that have led to this decision and important cause. We are grateful for the opportunity to compete fairly in the United States, and with this announcement, we look forward to the restoration of a level playing field in the market.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is a newly formed organization, the American Quartz Worker Coalition. According to a press release published January 23 of this year, the group is opposed to the duties on Chinese quartz imports, seeing the duties as “an attempt by one company, Cambria LLC, to convince the U.S. government to impose trade restrictions on imported quartz, a move designed to inflate Cambria’s profits.”
The Coalition claims to represent more than 200 U.S. fabricators and 5,000 workers across the country and believes that the duties will reduce the supply of available quartz by 50 percent, limiting consumer choice and threatening “tens of thousands of quartz-related fabricating jobs.”
“The U.S. quartz industry is an American success story,” said Matt Huarte, owner and vice president of Arizona Tile. “The industry has generated significant job growth, healthy profits and exploding sales over the past decade. Unfortunately, this success story is threatened by Cambria’s trade petition, which is simply an attempt to fatten its already high profits to the detriment of other manufacturers in the U.S. quartz industry, as well as U.S. quartz consumers.
“There are two very distinct market segments for quartz countertops in the U.S. – the luxury market and the mass market – with little competition between them,” said Rupesh Shah, co-president of MS International. “Cambria already dominates the premium luxury market with high-priced specialty products and is highly profitable as a result. U.S. fabricators, who serve the mass market and account for over 50,000 manufacturing jobs throughout all 50 states, rely on these imports to provide consumers with affordable quartz countertop products.”
“Cambria is petitioning the U.S. Government to diminish the vital role of fabricators in our industry, claiming that they play such a small and insignificant role in the industry that they should be ignored,” said Marisa Bedrosian, co-owner of Bedrosian’s Tile and Stone. “Nothing could be further from the truth. U.S. quartz fabricators are major employers and investors in this industry and, most importantly, are responsible for more U.S. labor to create quartz countertops than Cambria. It is easy to recognize the immeasurable value of our fabricators given that quartz countertops must be fabricated and installed to amount to any worth to a consumer.”
“The ‘Legend of Cambria’ is that fabricators don’t matter, and that is why we have come together to form this Coalition,” continued Bedrosian. “We will tell the real story and ensure that the facts about the entire U.S. quartz industry are heard and considered by the ITC. Hard working U.S. fabricators and other workers in our industry should be allowed to continue providing consumers with unlimited choices in quartz countertops.”
A final decision on this matter by the USITC is scheduled for May 2019.