US to investigate mobile crane imports

12 May 2020

The United States Department of Commerce announced that it will initiate a 232 investigation of mobile crane imports, in response to a petition Manitowoc filed in December.

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the Department of Commerce authority to initiate investigations to determine the effects of imports on the national security. The investigation will be conducted by the Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. 

Manitowoc alleges that increased imports of low-priced mobile cranes, particularly from Germany, Austria, and Japan, and intellectual property (IP) infringement by foreign competition,have harmed the domestic mobile crane manufacturing industry.The Department of Homeland Security has identified mobile cranes as a critical industry because of their extensive use in national defence applications, as well as in critical infrastructure sectors.

The petitioner, Manitowoc, claims the low-priced imports and IP infringement resulted in the closure of one of its two production facilities in the United States and eliminated hundreds of skilled manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin.

Manitowoc cites the US International Trade Commission’s (USITC) Dataweb to note that imports of mobile cranes increased 152% between 2014 and 2019, and a 2015 finding that a Chinese manufacturer misappropriated six trade secrets and infringed on a patent, resulting in the USITC banning the sale of a Chinese crane in the United States.

“Manitowoc filed this petition to urge the Department of Commerce to investigate a recent surge of mobile crane imports that threatens domestic manufacturers,” said Manitowoc president and chief executive officer Barry Pennypacker. “These imports jeopardise the domestic industry’s ability to supply cranes to the U.S. military and support critical infrastructure, thereby undermining the national security of the United States. We are confident this investigation will demonstrate the urgent need for the President to provide immediate and meaningful relief for Manitowoc. This petition is about protecting our American workforce and preserving our longstanding commitments to the U.S. military.”

According to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s website, the Secretary of the Department will prepare a report to the President, within 270 days of initiation. “The President can concur or not with the Secretary’s recommendations, and take action to “adjust the imports of an article and its derivatives” or other non-trade related actions as deemed necessary,” writes the Bureau of Industry and Security.

Manitowoc employs approximately 1,400 employees in the United States, mostly at its facility in Shady Grove, Pennsylvania, where the company manufactures mobile cranes it sells in the U.S.