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Machinery Division leaders in the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. will not release statistics this year — citing concerns about the accuracy of U.S. Customs Service import data.

Machinery Division members will continue to receive the data internally, but it will not be publicly released, unlike in past years. Division officials approved the decision during their annual spring conference, May 4-7 in Scottsdale, Ariz. They issued an announcement May 8.

Division leaders have long complained the government data on imports of machines, such as injection molding presses, blow molders and extruders, unfairly inflates the level of imports.

In the statement, Walter Cox, chairman of the division's statistical steering committee, said: ``Although we continue to have full confidence in data collected and reported by SPI's statistical program, the flaws in the government data mean that no conclusions can be drawn about apparent trends in the machinery industry because both SPI and government data are necessary to assess the full situation.''

SPI of Washington said the U.S. Customs Service Strategic Trade Center admitted in a letter that import numbers from injection presses ``have been overstated because other items, from plastic automotive parts to aluminum ingots, have been incorrectly classified as plastic injection molding machines, at time of entry.''

The letter also stated Customs has taken ``several actions'' against firms that ``have repeatedly misclassified other items'' under the injection press category.

That letter responded to an investigation of import data conducted by Robert Branand International, a Washington global- trade consulting firm, on behalf of the largest U.S. machinery maker, Cincinnati Milacron Inc. of Cincinnati. Results were presented to the statistical committee during the Scottsdale meeting.