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Opposing Alliances Launch Last-Ditch Bids for ITC Backing in Cabinet Imports Case

WASHINGTON, DC With government rulings imminent, a pair of industry coalitions at odds over potential duties on Chinese wooden cabinet and vanity imports have lobbied U.S. trade officials to rule in their favor, with each side expressing confidence that they’ll prevail in the landmark case.

Both the American Kitchen Cabinet Alliance (AKCA) and the American Coalition of Cabinet Distributors (ACCD) this month filed last-ditch, Congressionally-backed appeals with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), scheduled on Feb. 20 to conduct a final injury hearing in the matter.

Both appeals were filed during the final phase of a months-long unfair-trade case – among the largest in U.S. history – initiated last March before the ITC and Commerce Dept. by the AKCA, a 50-member coalition of U.S. cabinet suppliers closely aligned with the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

The AKCA filing charges government-subsidized Chinese manufacturers and exporters with unfair-trade practices – including the “dumping” products at below market value – and seeks the imposition of stiff antidumping and countervailing duties on the imports, which include ready-to-assemble (RTA) units.

The ACCD, an alliance of companies that import and distribute RTA cabinets, has vigorously opposed the potential trade duties, characterizing the AKCA petition as a “cynical and opportunistic ploy” to “wipe out” the RTA segment, while claiming that the RTA products serve a narrow niche demand and therefore pose no competitive threat to domestic suppliers of stock, custom and semi-custom product lines.

Both sides have also sharply disputed the overall size of the U.S. cabinet market, as well as the market share of Chinese imports.

The AKCA this month praised a bipartisan U.S. Senate letter to ITC Chairman David S. Johanson, calling on the ITC to “protect the American cabinet and vanity industry” from alleged Chinese dumping of imports, which the AKCA contends poses an existential threat to what the coalition claims is a $9.5-billion U.S. cabinet industry.

Led by Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), the letter in support of the AKCA was signed by 25 U.S. Senators, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Prior to the Senate letter, 45 members of the U.S. House of Representatives filed a similar letter, charging that “unfair-trade practices in the kitchen cabinet industry threaten 250,000 American jobs,” the AKCA said.

“We encourage the ITC to fairly enforce our trade laws,” the Senate letter said. “Some estimates have found that the American cabinet industry has suffered $4 billion in harm as a result of China’s unfair trade practices. When foreign countries are allowed to take these actions, workers and their families here at home are harmed.”

“We are greatly concerned about the threat posed by Chinese imports flooding the American kitchen cabinet market” added Bill Allen, president and CEO of Showplace Cabinetry. “This is not a ‘blue’ or ‘red’ issue; this is an American issue.”

The ACCD, for its part, also filed a last-ditch appeal to the ITC from members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation in support of the state’s RTA kitchen cabinet industry.

“We hope that the ITC will consider the unique characteristics of the RTA kitchen cabinet market in weighing this decision,” wrote New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Representatives Albio Sires, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

The ACCD said it “remains confident” that the ITC “will look at the facts and rule that imports of RTA cabinets have not injured the petitioners in this trade case,” said attorney Matthew Nicely of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, the Washington, DC-based law firm representing the ACCD.

“Fair-trade laws were simply not meant to be used to impose trade restrictions on imports that are growing their own market in the U.S. based on distinct, qualitative product characteristics that are unavailable from domestically sourced merchandise,” Nicely said.

“Pointing fingers at China and alleging that imports are the cause of the U.S. industry’s problems is a convenient way to explain away all manner of changes to the marketplace. It’s time for the U.S. industry to stop blaming imports for perceived problems and face the reality of intra-industry price competition.”

 

Editor’s Note:  A comprehensive look at the controversies impacting imports of cabinets, vanities, ceramic tile, quartz surfaces and other key kitchen/bath products appears in the February issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News.

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