China's Furniture Makers Brace For Next U.S. Volley In Trade Spat

By Agence France-Presse Anti-dumping duties on Chinese-made furniture are likely to be the next target of the United States in the run-up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election, analysts and industry experts said Nov. 20. While Nov. 18's move to slap quotas on textile imports from China was expected, Chinese furniture makers also may be in for a rough ride, given their exports to the U.S. have risen sharply in recent years, they said. Chinese shipments of household wood furniture to the U.S. jumped 75% to US$2.89 billion last year, making up more than one-third of all such imports to the U.S., according to the U.S. Commerce Department. A coalition of U.S. furniture makers filed a petition earlier this month with the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking the imposition of anti-dumping duties against Chinese-made furniture. Textiles and furniture are just two manufacturing lobbies U.S. politicians are seeking to court in the run-up to next year's November election, observers said. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., for one has blamed the loss of both textile and furniture manufacturing jobs on China, accusing Beijing of undervaluing the yuan in order to lower the price of textiles and furniture and wreak havoc on manufacturing employers in her state. "Let's call it what it is: cheating," she said last month. Dole has co-sponsored a bill seeking to slap a 27.5% tariff on all Chinese imports if the yuan is not floated within three months. The Beijing-based Chinese National Furniture Association is not waiting for official word from Washington. It denied accusations furniture makers have been dumping products onto the U.S. market and said the association has already retained U.S. counsel to mount a legal battle there to protect its market share. "On average, U.S. labor costs are 10 to 20 times China's, so we won't be surprised when the [United] States introduces policies on our exports," said an association spokesman. "As soon as they introduce these, we will argue it out in court to protect our industry." Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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