The Court's Review of the Commission's Injury Determinations
During 2012, the Court of International Trade also addressed significant aspects of the Commission's original injury analysis in three decisions. In these cases, the Court again reasonably chose to give deference to the Commission's factual and legal conclusions under the statute. Each of these decisions is addressed below.
Aluminum Extrusions Fair Trade Committee v. United States Aluminum: The Court Affirms the Commission's Domestic Like Product Finding and Negative Injury Determination for Finished Heat Sinks from China
In Aluminum Extrusions Fair Trade Committee v. United States Aluminum, (191) the Court of International Trade addressed the Commission's domestic like product determination for finished heat sinks and its negative injury determination for imports of finished heat sinks from China. (192) In the underlying investigation on imports of aluminum extrusions from China, the Commission found that finished heat sinks were a separate domestic like product from the other aluminum extrusion products that were within the scope of the investigation, and made a negative determination for these imports. (193)
The petitioner, the Aluminum Extrusions Fair Trade Committee (AEFTC), appealed the Commission's negative determination, arguing that the Commission's domestic like product finding and negative determination for finished heat sinks were not supported by substantial evidence or in accordance with law. (194) The Court (per Judge Judith Barzilay) affirmed the Commission's decision on both issues, rejecting the plaintiffs claims that the decisions were not supported by substantial evidence. (195) In its decision, the Court soundly rejected plaintiffs attempts to have it reweigh the record evidence, consistently reminding plaintiff that the Commission is given the discretion to determine the probative weight and meaning of specific items of evidence on the record. (196)
The Court's Affirmance of the Commission's Domestic Like Product Finding
In Aluminum Extrusions, the Commission's investigation covered finished heat sinks from China. The scope of the petition covered a wide variety of aluminum extrusions, including heat sinks. (197) Heat sinks are aluminum extrusions that are designed to absorb or dissipate heat from electronic components. (198) In its final phase investigations, the Commission defined fabricated heat sinks as "any heat sink blank that has been cut-to-length, precision machined, and or otherwise fabricated to the end product specifications, but not yet tested, assembled into other materials, or packaged." (199) In contrast, the Commission defined "finished heat sinks" as the "final product ready to be sold to electronics manufacturers. Finished heat sinks differ from fabricated heal sinks in that they have been fully tested and assured to comply with the required end-use specification." (200)
In the final phase investigations, Aavid Thermalloy (Aavid), a producer of finished heat sinks in the United States and China, argued that the Commission should find finished heat sinks to be a distinct domestic like product from other aluminum extrusions. (201) After weighing the record evidence on this issue using its traditional six-factor domestic like product test, (202) the Commission agreed that finished heat sinks were a separate domestic like product. (203) In reaching this decision, the Commission clarified its definition of finished heat sinks as "fabricated heat sinks, sold to electronics manufacturers, the design and production of which are organized around meeting certain specified thermal performance requirements and which have been fully, albeit not necessarily individually, tested to comply with such requirements." (204)
As noted, on appeal, AEFTC challenged this finding. (205) The Court rejected their claim, finding that the Commission's domestic like product finding for finished heat sinks was supported by substantial evidence and in accordance with law. (206) As an initial matter, the Court rejected plaintiffs argument that the Commission departed from its practice of including all products that are within a continuum of products in the same domestic like product. (207) Pointing out that the Commission had not previously concluded that all aluminum extrusions within the scope constituted a continuum of products within the same like product, the Court stated that this meant that the Commission had not established a practice on this issue. (208)
The Court then addressed plaintiffs argument that, in finding finished heat sinks to be a separate like product, the Commission erred by finding that there was a clear dividing line between finished heat sinks and all other aluminum extrusions. (209) On appeal, plaintiff argued that the proper comparison for this purpose was between finished heat sinks and fabricated heat sinks, not with all other aluminum extrusions. (210) The Court rejected the argument. Although it agreed that the "commonalities between finished and fabricated heat sinks [were] relevant" for the Commission's domestic like product analysis, the issue on review for the Court was whether the Commission's "finding of a clear dividing line between finished heat sinks and all other aluminum extrusions [was] supported by substantial evidence." (211) The Court concluded that it was. (212)
Reviewing the Commission's weighing of the evidence for its domestic like product analysis, the Court found that the Commission reasonably explained why the evidence supported its finding that finished heat sinks were a separate like product from other aluminum extrusions. (213) With respect to the first factor considered by the Commission as part of its domestic like product analysis (i.e., the products' physical characteristics and uses), the Commission had found that finished heat sinks differ from other aluminum extrusions by virtue of the precise tolerance to which they are produced and their customized thermal resistance properties. (214) The Court rejected plaintiffs claim that the Commission mistakenly failed to assess the precise quantity of heat sinks that were manufactured to these exacting tolerances, or to consider that other aluminum extrusions were made to similar tolerances. (215) Pointing out that the Commission's "explanation of its determination need not be perfect but need only be 'reasonably discernible to a reviewing court,'" (216) the Court held that evidence of some overlap in tolerances between finished heat sinks and other aluminum extrusions did not undermine the reasonableness of the Commission's finding that finished heat sinks were, on the whole, different from other extrusions in terms of tolerances. (217) The Court also rejected the plaintiffs claims that finished heat sinks were not distinguishable from other extrusions because of thermal testing or uses. (218) The Court concluded that the Commission had reasonably considered both distinctions in its analysis, pointing out that the record supported this finding. (219)
With respect to the Commission's finding that there were differences in channels of distribution for the products, the plaintiff argued that the Commission had failed to explain how the record showed there were significant differences between finished heat sinks and other extrusions. (220) The Court again rejected the claim, noting that the record evidence supported the Commission's finding that sellers of other aluminum extrusions do not sell finished heat sinks. (221) As for the existence of common manufacturing facilities, processes, and employees, the Court also affirmed the Commission's finding that the production of finished heat sinks required the use of specialized equipment, thermal testing, and highly trained employees that were not involved in the production of other extrusions. (222) Although the plaintiff asserted that these differences were not significant enough to support a separate domestic like product finding, the Court affirmed the Commission's finding that the production of finished heat sinks involves a more specialized process than other extrusions. (223) The Court explained that the "record demonstrates that there are indeed differences in the production process between the two products." (224)
With respect to customer and producer perceptions, the Commission had found that, while most U.S. producers and importers of aluminum extrusions reported that finished heat sinks and other aluminum extrusions were comparable, some customers reported that heat sinks constituted a different type of extrusion product than other aluminum extrusions. (225) The plaintiff argued that this finding did not adequately account for the fact that a majority of producers and importers reported the two products were comparable. (226) Again, the Court rejected the argument, explaining that the Commission's weighing of the evidence on this issue was reasonable because "[substantial evidence does not require that the overwhelming weight of the evidence support the Commission's conclusion." (227) The Court added that the Commission correctly concluded that "some responses indicated that the two products are perceived as distinct," which the Court explained sufficiently supported the Commission's finding. (228)
Finally, the Commission found that there were significant differences in the prices for finished heat sinks and other extrusions. (229) On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the Commission should have compared the prices of finished heat sinks not to those of all other extrusions, but only to the prices of heat sinks not subject to thermal testing. (230) The Court rejected this theory, explaining that it would not remand a domestic like product finding based on a "speculative" theory that evidence not in the record might undermine the Commission's findings. (231) The Court added that, even if the plaintiff's theory that the prices of all extrusions vary based on the...