Friday, February 5, 2010

Chinese glass imports continue to spark controversy

I honestly didn’t know what to think when I learned last year that the bid to supply blast-resistant glass for the new World Trade Center tower went to a Chinese company. On the one hand, I’m all for cost savings, provided the product or service is high quality. On the other, I identified with PPG spokesman Jack Maurer when he said in a Patriot-News interview: "This is going to be an iconic U.S. building that will have Chinese glass in it. At the end of the day, this glass could be made in the United States."

These feelings resurfaced when I read a recent New York Times article, in which Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) echoed Maurer's sentiment. “Imagine China building a huge structure intended to be an important national symbol and importing glass from the United States to build it," Brown said. "There is no way the Chinese would do that.”

In the New York Times article and a subsequent Toledo Blade piece, the national media called attention to the declining state of domestic glass production, citing Beijing Glass’ winning bid as evidence of U.S. glass manufacturers’ struggle to compete against foreign suppliers. The Chinese glass industry, specifically, experienced a three-fold increase in exports to the U.S. from 2000 to 2008, while the U.S. trade deficit with China on glass tripled in the same period, according to an Economic Policy Institute study.

“Our domestic glass industry is the most efficient in the world, but it cannot compete against production that is heavily subsidized by the Chinese government,” said Scott Paul, executive director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, in a letter to glass executives last fall. “As a result, glass production in the U.S. has suffered in recent years, with plant closings and thousands of lost jobs throughout the country.”

According to an EPI release, the U.S. glass industry has contracted by about 30 percent—nearly 40,000 jobs—since 2001. Sixteen states, among them California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have lost at least one out of four of their glass industry jobs since 2001. See how the float plant landscape in North America has changed over the past five years, here.

To help domestic glass manufacturers compete, some are pushing for tariffs on Chinese imports. Others, like Sen. Brown, are calling for a national manufacturing policy to lower the cost of doing business in the U.S. As for the glass manufacturers themselves, some—like Guardian, which The New York Times reports will supply the glass for the upper 85 floors of the tower—are continuing to expand glass production overseas. Read how, here.

"Those who are looking through the rearview mirror, waiting for the glass industry in this country to come back, should know it isn't going to come back, not the way it was," said Russ Ebeid, Guardian chairman, in the New York Times article.

What do you think the future holds for domestic glass production? Is a return to growth in the cards? Is government intervention the answer?

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

BULTIWOW! SURPRIZE AND TO THINK WE HAVE POLITICIANS WHO WILL ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN

Anonymous said...

THIS SHOULD MAKE THOSE WHO VOTED FOR CHANGE REST A LOT EASIER

Anonymous said...

Someone should check into where the aluminum for the curtainwall came from.

Anonymous said...

There is an error in this article. Guardian is not supplying the upper 85 floors. Viracon is the supplier.

Jenni Chase said...

In a Feb. 13 letter to The New York Times, Russ Ebeid provided the following clarification: "Your Jan. 19 article about glassmaking in America implies that the industry's growth abroad comes at the expense of growth in the United States. Guardian Industries has grown by building a strong American manufacturing base--only then pursuing global business opportunities ... In our view, the American glass market is not declining."

Read the entire letter here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/opinion/web13glass.html

Jenni Chase said...

Thank you for your comments. In regards to the suppliers for this project: Guardian is supplying the float glass substrates for the upper floors of the tower to Viracon. Viracon is fabricating the custom glass units and shipping the units to Benson Industries, which is the curtain wall manufacturer and installer. Thanks to Viracon's Christine Shaffer for the explanation.

Anonymous said...

How could we(the glass industry) let this happen? This is just one more thing to show that we are broken as a nation. That being said I still wouldn't want to live/work any where else in the world(with the exception of Canada).

Jenni Chase said...

Guardian to The New York Times: "There's more to the story"

To read Guardian's response to the NYT article and a subsequent opinion piece in the Monroe Evening News, visit www.guardian.com.

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Richard said...

I know my comments are late in the game. We need to build this country together as American citizens with American products and labor. We do not need government intervention we all know what that does. The People that made the decision to use chinese glass are at fault no one else. It will take Americans (not government)to make this country great again. I am ashamed of the people that decided to go with the chinese glass.