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  • Thomas Russell

Throwback Thursday: Chinese tariffs then and now

tbt logoFurniture Today turns 40 this year and to help our readers celebrate we offer this look back at the past 40 years of furniture industry history. Each week we’ll dig into the F/T archives to share insights from the industry’s past. We’d also like to hear your stories. If you’d like to share a story from the past 40 years of furniture industry history please write Editor in Chief Bill McLoughlin at bmcloughlin@furnituretoday.com.

Just over 20 years ago, the subject of tariffs on Chinese-made goods was in the headlines, much like they are today.

tbt china dec22In a May 20, 1996, story in Furniture Today, the issue came up under the headline “China tariff battle bypasses industry.”

At the time, the U.S. government was considering imposing 100% tariffs on a variety of goods such as textiles and electronics. The move was meant to punish China for its piracy on a host of U.S. made goods such as consumer electronics.

But furniture was not on a list of some $3 billion in consumer goods that were potentially subject to tariffs. This ended up being good news to an industry whose imports – both case goods and upholstery from China would grow substantially over time.

In 1995, for example, furniture and furniture components imports from China to the U.S. totaled about $682 million. Last year they totaled $13.7 billion. Over the years, this increase led to tens of thousands of job losses in the U.S. furniture industry.

As many know, tariffs against China could once again resurface under the Trump administration. Dubbing China a currency manipulator, he has threatened tariffs as high as 45% to help reduce the estimated $367 billion trade deficit.

The question is will furniture be affected? Importers in the including some of whom supported Trump in the election, are likely hoping not, particularly if they bring in goods from China. But even domestic producers that import components from China could be affected. Only time will tell as Trump and his cabinet officially begin their duties Jan. 20.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, Furniture Today
trussell@furnituretoday.com

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.