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Glass Products May Drop in Imports Due to Slow Foreign Commercial Construction

Last year many glass and curtainwall companies in the United States and other western countries were struggling with increasing competition from Chinese imports. The 2008 statistics dropped in glass categories with glass imports totaling $443,659. The decrease may not be a substantial one, but both contract glaziers and suppliers say they have indeed noticed the decline.

Current economic conditions might come to mind first, but some in the industry say it's due to more than just slow commercial construction.

On the supplier side, Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass, agrees that they, too, have seen the imports drop because people were growing concerned with the fact that there was not a good way to work through any issues that could occur on the project.

"If you had any sort of problem or situation, you were really on your own. However, cheap imports from places such as Colombia still come in at alarming rates and that's becoming a bigger issue," says Perilstein. "When times improve, I could see the imports from China increase again because there's always someone out there who thinks this is the best deal and best situation for their company-until they get burned that is."

Perilstein tells that shipping of glass and metal from China has also gotten more expensive and difficult. "Glass products are heavy and the importers would rather ship lightweight products, such as computer accessories, because they can ship a lot more of it," he says.

On the other side, John Shum, vice president of Sierra Glass and Mirror in Las Vegas, says in his area they noticed a decline in Chinese imports even before the current economic conditions, which, he adds, slowly but surely have put a halt to most major projects.

"But for many projects still in progress here, Chinese products are still being used because they were brought in a couple of years ago," says Shum, who adds that for the most part, the decline is probably because of the poor experiences had by many of those who participated in the Chinese import projects. Shum says a developer that had used Chinese curtainwall on his last tower awarded a project to his company because that developer didn't want to go through the pain-staking process of obtaining final completion with Chinese materials.

Gary Taylor, marketing administrator for United States Aluminum, agrees that the import of aluminum and glass from China has reduced, and will continue to do so.

"I know last year, Canada had an inquiry into the largest anti-dumping grievance ever filed in the country. It was alleged that China was subsidizing and dumping aluminum extrusions on the Canadian market," says Taylor. "Second, what has been the largest growing trend in our industry over the last few years? Green building/LEED, which will be another obstacle for Chinese imports."

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