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EU objects to PHL’s frequent use of glass safeguard measures

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THE European Union has flagged at a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting the Philippines’ practice of imposing sagefuard measures on float glass imports.

“The European Union said it regretted the frequent recourse to the safeguard instrument by the Philippines on imports of float glass and said that if the domestic industry could not adjust over 10 years, then another course of action should be taken,” an official based in Geneva, where the WTO is headquartered, told BusinessWorld.

“Given that one country accounts for 85% of float glass (exported) to the Philippines, more appropriate trade defense instruments like anti-dumping or countervailing measures should be used, the EU said. The Philippines said it would report back to capital on the EU’s intervention,” the official, who cited his office’s usual procedure against being identified, added.

Float glass is manufactured according to the Pilkington process for making sheets of glass, typically used in windows. The process involves “floating” molten glass on a bed of molten metal. Products made via the Pilkington process are of uniform thickness, ensuring flat surfaces.

On April 29, over 30 safeguard-related actions of WTO members were reviewed at the Committee on Safeguard’s biannual meeting, reflecting the increased use of this trade-defense tool in recent years — amid increased concerns about their use.

In March, the Philippines notified the WTO of its preliminary safeguard investigation on the importation of clear and tinted float glass from various countries.

The probe, which started in February through Safeguard Case No. 01-2019, was conducted upon the request of the industry’s sole domestic producer, Pioneer Float Glass Manufacturing Inc.

Citing government data, Pioneer said the volume of imported clear and clear reflective float glass rose sharply between 2013 and 2016.

In 2014, imports totaled 32,351 metric tons (MT), up 646%; 2015 imports totaled 49,289 MT, up 52%; and 2016 shipments amounted to 58,787 MT, up 19%.

In 2017 imports of clear float and clear reflective glass declined by 29% following the imposition of an anti-dumping duty.

In the first six months of 2018, imports rose 113%.

Pioneer described the upward trend as “recent, sharp, sudden and significant.”

The report defines clear float glass as “a distortion-free, transparent glass with precise surface flatness which provides excellent thorough-vision images.”

It is used specifically for exterior and interior window and door openings, curtain walls, huge scenic openings (glacade-suspended glass systems), showcase windows, furniture applications (tabletops, dressers), interior room partitions and basic glass for mirrors, heat-treated safety glass, laminated glass, and ballistic glass.

Tinted glass or bronze glass is described as “a distortion-free, colored or tinted, but transparent glass, with a light to a darker shade of brown, with precise surface flatness.

Tinted float glass is used for exterior and interior window and door openings, curtain walls, scenic openings, furniture applications, interior room partitions and basic glass for tinted mirrors, automotive tempered glass, building tempered and heated -strengthened safety glass, ballistic glass, and decorative applications.

Top suppliers of clear and clear reflective glass and tinted and tinted reflective glass during the five-year-period are China, Indonesia and Malaysia. — Janina C. Lim

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