• Thomas Russell

U.S. group goes to court to seek duties on Chinese plywood

Claims product sold here at unfairly low prices

WASHINGTON — A group of U.S. hardwood plywood producers is seeking a judicial review of the International Trade Commission's decision not to pursue an antidumping case against Chinese hardwood plywood producers, which the U.S. companies say are selling the product into the U.S. market at unfairly low prices.

The Coalition for Fair Trade of Hardwood Plywood filed a petition in September 2012 seeking an investigation into the pricing tactics of Chinese producers. The U.S. producers initially sought duties as high as 320% on the imports.

In a preliminary decision that year, the ITC found there was a reasonable indication that the U.S. producers had been injured by the imports. This past September, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued final duties ranging from 55.76% to 121.65% based on findings that the imports were subsidized and sold into the U.S. market at less than fair value.

Yet in its final decision issued in November, the ITC determined that the U.S. hardwood plywood industry wasn't materially injured by the Chinese imports. That determination meant the product wouldn't be subject to the U.S. duties, which are assigned to the Chinese producers but paid by importers of record.

The plywood in question is used largely in shelving, boats and recreational vehicles, but some is used in furniture production, officials said.

In a complaint filed this week with the U.S. Court of International Trade, the U.S. producers said the ITC's negative final determination was not supported by substantial evidence and failed to take into account the widespread competition between the imports and similar domestic product.

Among other issues, the coalition said the ITC wrongly concluded that the domestically made hardwood plywood was concentrated in higher-grade products while the imports were primarily for lower-grade products.

"Troubling to the U.S. industry is that the final determination by the Department of Commerce that these Chinese plywood products were dumped into the U.S. at the range of 55.76% to 121.65% and had no impact on the U.S. industry to compete fairly, according to the ITC," Jeff Levin, counsel to the U.S. coalition, said in a statement.

The complaint asks that the court send the decision back to the ITC for reconsideration.

The American Alliance for Hardwood Plywood, a group of importers, distributors and manufacturers of hardwood plywood products said that it was dismayed, at the coalition's action and that it plans to intervene in the lawsuit.

"The CFTHP's claims against Chinese imported plywood were investigated thoroughly by the ITC and rejected unanimously in a 5-0 vote," said Greg Simon, AAHP co-chairman. "Now the CFTHP has aimed its legal weapons against the United States government. AAHP looks forward to standing alongside the United States to show that the ITC correctly rejected the CFTHP's claims."

AAHP co-chair Gregg Wilkinson added, "This is yet another example of the CFTHP undermining and harming their biggest customers - the United States kitchen cabinet makers. Already the cabinet makes suffered severe disruption at the hands of the CFTHP until the ITC finally threw out the case entirely."

The ITC declined to comment.


Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, FurnitureToday

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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