China-based profile extruders may run into a roadblock in their effort to sell building products in the United States.
The American Architectural Manufacturers Association is re-evaluating certain certification requirements for overseas producers, and a proposal from its Vinyl Material Council even seeks to revoke the certification of one firm based in China.
AAMA, based in Schaumburg, Ill., scheduled a conference call meeting Jan. 23 and its regular board meeting Feb. 11 in Palm Springs, Calif., to discuss all the options, said AAMA Executive Vice President Rich Walker. According to the Vinyl Material Council's January newsletter, those options include:
* Requiring foreign licensees to post a bond that would offset risk in trade with suppliers whose governments offer little or no recourse for U.S. customers.
* Raising weathering certification requirements for foreign vinyl window profiles to three or five years with no conditional approval upon submittal.
* Denying certification of vinyl profiles from foreign producers if the presence of lead is confirmed. Any firm whose product is positive for lead would have to wait five years before it can re-apply to the program.
``Somehow we've got to find a way to adapt to this,'' Walker said in a Jan. 21 interview at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. ``That's what we're struggling with now. We've never had anything like this. We just want to make sure everybody's heard on this.''
Most U.S building codes require products that are AAMA-certified. Certification stipulates no use of lead stabilizers, which are unlawful in the United States. But domestic producers are worried that foreign producers could slip lead stabilizers into the compounding mix. When companies become certified under AAMA, officials conduct unannounced plant inspections to guard against such practices.
``There is no way you can conduct unannounced plant inspections in a communist country,'' said one source with the 110-member Vinyl Material Council, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``[We're] proposing to have the certification revoked until they can create a mechanism for unannounced plant inspections.''
The issue is divisive and complex. ATN Window and Door Corp., with extrusion and fabrication facilities in Hangzhou, China, currently is the only Chinese firm with AAMA certification. However, two other producers, including Dalian Shide Plastic Industry Co. Ltd., have applied for certification.
``We're looking at a lot of different options,'' Walker said of all the proposals. ``Some people in our association might want to [revoke ATN's certification], but we haven't voted to do it. ... Our Vinyl Materials Council is not even unified on it. We have people making vinyl extrusions here that would like to make sure that the extrusions are going through the same qualifications that the domestic ones are.''
Walker said that specific proposal is unlikely to pass.
``To the best of our knowledge, all our inspections didn't reveal any lead in [ATN's] window plants,'' Walker said.