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Commerce Favored Domestic Coalition in Scope Proceding, Importer Argues

The Commerce Department impermissably favored one side through a series of actions around a scope ruling on ceramic tiles from China, including an exclusive meeting with a domestic tile producer that unfairly prejudiced the agency, importers Elysium Tiles and Elysium Tile Florida said in a March 16 complaint at the Court of International Trade (Elysium Tiles v. U.S., CIT # 23-00041).

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Commerce violated its regulations by failing to summarize its discussions in the ex parte meeting with Florida Tile, a member of the Coalition of Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile (CFTCT). Elysium objected to the meeting and requested one of its own to discuss production techniques with Commerce, but the department did not respond. Elysium said that the meeting with Florida Tile is prejudicial because information presented in that meeting could not be addressed or rebutted because Elysium does not know the substance.

Commerce issued the underlying antidumping and countervailing duty order on ceramic tiles from China in 2020. In April of 2022, Elysium filed its scope request, arguing that its composite tiles fell outside of the scope of the orders. After Commerce rejected Elysium's initial request, the agency began a scope proceeding following a request to reconsider from Elysium. During that proceeding, Commerce met with Florida Tile at one of its production facilities.

Elysium said the composite tile it produces is not ceramic tile for purposes of the AD/CVD order. The production operations are substantial and convert various raw materials, including a ceramic tile underlay, into a new and different article of commerce, Elysium argued. The marble component of the composite tile is "significantly more valuable than any other component and provides the essential character to the finished good," it said. Also, the composite tiles are not produced by "firing" and the materials are not "fused," as required by the scope language, Elysium said.