Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) has called on the Obama Administration to strengthen its enforcement of laws designed to combat unfair trade practices used by Chinese companies that harm American furniture manufacturers. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on October 5, Senator Webb noted the concerns of furniture producers in Virginia about Chinese furniture companies evading duties. According to U.S. furniture companies, an estimated $82 million in antidumping duties was left uncollected in 2011 alone.
"The furniture industry in Virginia and across the country has been devastated by unfair trade practices for many years," said Senator Webb, who has repeatedly expressed concerns about the impact of China's unfair trade policies and first raised concerns about uncollected duties on Chinese furniture in June 2010. "American manufacturers and their workers deserve the protections to which they are legally entitled. The Department of Homeland Security should work to investigate these practices, put a stop to fraudulent activities, and collect outstanding duties."
In October 2010, Senator Webb supported extending the antidumping duty order on Chinese wooden furniture, warning that failure to combat China's unfair trade practices could lead to "the point where the furniture industry in Virginia is only history." Senator Webb has also supported antidumping duty orders against the Chinese steel industry, which unfairly hurts Virginia businesses like Timken in Altavista, Va.
October 5, 2012
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20229
RE: Antidumping Order on Wooden Bedroom Furniture from China
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
I am writing on behalf of furniture producers in Virginia to urge stronger enforcement of U.S. trade remedy laws. These critical employers in my state, including Vaughan-Bassett Furniture and Stanley Furniture, are concerned that duties are not being paid on imports of wooden bedroom furniture from China.
My constituents joined with producers in other states to file an antidumping duty petition in 2003 regarding imports of wooden bedroom furniture from China. The U.S. International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce subsequently determined that Chinese manufacturers were selling their products in the U.S. market at unfair prices and injuring domestic furniture companies. In November 2010, the International Trade Commission extended the antidumping order, determining that revoking the order "would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury within a reasonably foreseeable time."
According to my constituents and available U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, some importers of Chinese furniture are evading payment of duties on these furniture shipments. Because the duties are not being paid, U.S. furniture producers and their workers are not receiving the intended benefits of the antidumping law. I understand that for fiscal year 2011, an estimated $82 million in antidumping duties remains uncollected. For the period 2005 -- 2011, the total is estimated to be as high as $236 million.
I understand that CBP does not have available a comprehensive summary of the current status of these uncollected duties. I request that CBP provide me with a detailed summary of all the duties that remain uncollected under the order on wooden bedroom furniture from China, as well as the companies that owe these amounts. In addition, please have CBP provide an explanation of the efforts made to date to collect these duties and CBP's plan for future collection efforts.
I would appreciate a prompt report on the steps taken by your agency to address this matter. Thank you for your attention to this matter.