New tool import duties expected to help B


In a move that is expected to help Black & Decker Corp. fend off Japanese competitors, the U.S. Commerce Department has increased temporary duties on professional power saws, sanders and grinding tools made in Japan.

The new duties came after a complaint filed by the Towson-based power tool and appliance maker against its primary nemesis, Makita Corp., and other Japanese companies. The complaint, filed last June, alleged that Japanese power tool makers were selling products in this country below their fair market values, a practice known as dumping.

In its final determination, issued Thursday, the Commerce Department ruled that Makita and other Japanese companies were selling professional power saws at 54.43 percent below their "fair value" and professional sanders and grinders at 46.75 percent below fair value.

In a preliminary decision in December, the department had found the difference between the sales price and fair market price to be 41.17 for saws and 38.98 for sanders and grinders.

The new decision means importers of those tools would have to pay ahigher cash deposit or post a larger bond to cover the additional difference. The action affects $166.5 million worth of imports each year.

"These are really extraordinary margins," said Barbara B. Lucas, a spokeswoman for Black & Decker. Before the duties become permanent, however, the Internation Trade Commission must rule that the imports have materially injured the U.S. industry. The commission, which has 45 days to make its decision, held a hearing on the case yesterday in Washington.

Professional saws, sanders and grinders account for less than one-quarter of Black & Decker's U.S. power tool sales, which run between $600 million and $700 million each year, Ms. Lucas said.

The trade case did not involve power drills, which account for the largest portion of the company's power tool sales.

Faced with higher duties, Makita has been increasing production at its American plant in Buford, Ga., Ms. Lucas said, adding that Black & Decker was pleased to see the greater shift to domestic production. "Then we're producing on the same basis," she said.

Makita officials were traveling and not available for comment yesterday.

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