Canada imported more than 23.5 million square feet of ceramic tile from the United States in 2018, giving a small boost to U.S. exports in a year when Americans purchased a lower quantity of domestically manufactured product. Frustrated U.S. tile manufacturers are now petitioning their government to increase the 10 per cent tariff imposed last September on Chinese imports.
“Chinese tile producers benefit from extensive government subsidies and dump their tile into the United States at ridiculously low prices,” contends Eric Astrachan, executive director of the Tile Council of North American (TCNA). “Domestic manufacturers had no choice but to seek relief from the federal government from these unfairly traded imports.”
The United States International Trade Commission initiated a preliminary anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation yesterday. Newly released TCNA data shows Chinese imports gained market share in 2018, as the sales volume surpassed 692 million square feet — up from 657.5 million square feet the previous year. The average cost of Chinese tile, including insurance, freight and duty, remained at USD $0.90 per square foot despite the tariff.
U.S. consumers bought about 910,500 million square feet of made-in-America tile — a decline from 962,480 million square feet in 2017 — in a year when its average cost climbed two cents to hit USD $1.53 per square foot. A modest 4.4 per cent increase in exports did little to make up for losses at home since just 29.7 million square feet of product went to foreign markets. Canada received nearly 80 per cent of that, while Mexico took 4.5 per cent.
Despite Astrachan’s consternation about “a flood of unfairly traded imports from China” that influx is not the lowest priced import in the U.S. market. Ceramic tile from Mexico carries an average value of USD $0.61 per square foot, but U.S. sales declined for the fourth consecutive year in 2018. American consumers purchased slightly more than 379 million square feet — down from 397.5 million square feet in 2017.
On the flipside, Italian product accounted for the highest dollar value of imports last year. American consumers bought 360 million square feet at an average of USD $1.97 per square foot — about $83.6 million more than they spent on a much vaster quantity of Chinese imports.
Spain and Brazil round out the list of the top five foreign suppliers to the U.S. tile market, sending 310 million square feet and 159.5 million square feet respectively.