Thursday 19 April 2012


Printers begin to speak out on the anti-dumping duty on offset plates

From license raj to monopoly raj

                               Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi
                       
As we wrote in December and earlier this month, the fragmented printing industry is composed of more than one lakh mostly owner managed plants. For several reasons (both good and bad), these printers rarely speak out or articulate their views on any substantive issue even if it directly affects them or their business. 

However, on the anti-dumping duty sought to be imposed on the import of CtP offset plates, printers are beginning to look at the issue seriously and are speaking out more and more. This is a huge change in the printing industry as the better educated second and third generation owner-promoters are bolder in their thinking, and also more outspoken on issues such as training skilled workers, safety, environment and those of direct business concern such as taxes, imports and competition. These printers are increasingly ready to become visible — they are coming out from under the radar. 

As far as the anti-dumping duty sought to be levied on CtP offset plates, the preliminary findings including the suggested anti-dumping duty rates were distributed by the Directorate of Anti Dumping and Allied Duties of the Department of Commerce and an open oral hearing was held at Udyog Bhavan in Delhi on 10 April 2012. The meeting was attended not only by TechNova which has sought the imposition of the duty and the international plate manufacturers and importers but also by some publishers, printers and printers’ associations. Apparently most of the time was taken up by the lawyers and while TechNova’s lawyer spoke first and last, it seems that the lawyers of Kodak, Fuji and Lucky Huaguang Graphics made several telling points. Reiterating their stand on various issues they disputed the very premise that TechNova has suffered any injury at all, because TechNova’s recent and current financial statements and profit and loss accounts are not available to be seen anywhere, not even by going to the Registrar of Companies (ROC). 

The lawyers also pointed to several places in the preliminary findings where there seem to be typographic errors in the tables of figures which means that there is no way to figure out what is really what — at least not from the numbers and tables given — for an individual printer trying to understand what this means. I suppose that these errors will be examined and explained — and/ or corrected and refuted. At the hearing there was no refutation of these numerical table errors. (Written arguments and refutations have been called for by a date later this month.) Nevertheless, even the computation of the price of imported plates when it actually reaches printers was disputed since these prices are already in many cases the same or higher than TechNova’s. Another significant point was how anti-dumping duty could be applied to plates on a square metre basis rather than by weight, when offset plates are actually supplied in three different thicknesses? How can anti-dumping negate a printer’s efforts to decrease his/her costs by buying and using thinner plates? 

In spite of lobbying with several big printers and newspapers, the only publisher or printer who spoke out clearly in support of TechNova at the open hearing was a representative of the Dainik Jagran newspaper group. One hears that what was not disputed was that since 2008 TechNova has grown by as much as five times and that it enjoys more than 70% market share. In fact TechNova’s own lawyer described it as a benevolent monopoly. It seems that one of the plate manufacturer’s lawyers and the Kerala Master Printers’ Association representative pointed to the obvious dangers of being subject to the benevolence of a monopoly that may see fit to change its mind at any time on any issue. 

Several printers have spoken to me over the past two weeks. A small prepress house in Delhi has even cancelled its CtCP order since CtCP plates would suffer the highest anti-dumping if the preliminary findings are implemented. Another local printer Aman Gulati that I visited, told me that he is completely against the imposition of anti-dumping duties and feels that the owner of TechNova is only trying to make the most of his company in order to sell it off. TechNova of course should get credit and acknowledgement for what it has done to bring modern plate technology to Indian printers. However TechNova is not satisfied with mere praise or market dominance, it wants to own the market in order to monopolise it. This no longer seems possible since the economy has been liberalised and modernised and the printing industry which is slowly getting organised has been one of the biggest gainers. 

To grow further printers will have to invest more than their money, they will have to learn the complexities of business issues and governance that affect them, since many more will arise in coming years, and they will have to learn to speak out. Whatever your views, dare to communicate these to the antidumping commission. This is an important institution — one which is a bedrock of fair play and competition for a modern democracy and for global trade.
– Avinandan Mukherjee
edit8@ippgroup.in


Anti-dumping Commission: Satish Kumar, Director, telephone number 011- 2306 3642; eMail:satishk@nic.in ; or,satprag@gmail.com . You can also download the preliminary findings from www.commerce.nic.in/writereaddata/traderemedies/adpref_Digital_Offset_Printing_Plates_ChinaPR_Japan.pdf

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