WASHINGTON — Seven American companies asked the federal government Monday to investigate rising levels of plastics machinery imports, saying continued erosion of the U.S. market share would threaten national security.
In a petition filed with the Commerce Department, the companies said U.S. manufacturers of injection molding machines are severely threatened by foreign competition, particularly from Japan.
Injection molding is the process by which hot fluid plastic is forced into a mold at high pressure.
Ray Ross, vice president of Cincinnati Milacron Inc.'s plastics machinery division, said the plastics are used in submarines, jet engines and guidance systems for the MX missile as well for non-military products.
"It is our feeling that imports of injection molding machinery have reached critical and damaging levels which threaten the viability of the domestic industry, so much so that the industry would not be able to respond to production levels and timetables required to ensure national security in the event of armed conflict," Ross said.
The petition was filed on behalf of the companies by the Society of the Plastics Industry, a trade association based in Washington.
It asks the Commerce Department to determine what effect the imports are having on national security and to make recommendations to the President for possible remedial action.
Ross said imports of injection molding machines have reached unprecedented levels, accounting for two-thirds of those purchased in the United States in 1986.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 American workers are directly involved in production of the machinery, with an additional 30,000 to 40,000 supplying parts and other materials, Ross said.
The companies filing the petition include Cincinnati Milacron Inc.; HPM Corp. of Mount Gilead, Ohio; Newbury Industries Inc., of Newbury, Ohio; Van Dorn Plastics Machinery Co. of Strongsville, Ohio; Klockner Windsor Inc., of Erlanger, Ky.; Natco Inc., of Richmond, Ind., and Packaging Machinery Co. of Stafford Springs, Conn.
"I think we really got together on the basis that we did see a significant erosion in an industry that we feel is critical to maintain," said Richard Studer of HPM.
Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) said that he will ask the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee to hold hearings on how military readiness is being affected by the industry's difficulties.