Columbia has been hit hard by Chinese plywood manufacturers dumping plywood in the North American market, undercutting price by as much as 56%, says Gary Gillespie, Columbia’s general manager for northern operations. Dumping can be defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce as a foreign company selling a product in the U.S. at “less than its fair value.”
Gillespie said that since the Chinese targeted the U.S. with low-cost hardwood panels in the early 2000s, the company fell from about 3,000 employees to about 2,000. Kip Howlett, president of the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association, said 25% of the overall hardwood plywood capacity in the nation has been permanently shut down because four companies have gone out of business. “We’ve had 25,000 jobs lost over four years from 2009 to 2013,” Howlett said. “Obviously, the housing depression had something to do with it, but the share of Chinese imports continued to grow from 2009 to 2013.”
Dumping petition rejected
In September 2012, Columbia and five of its competitors formed the Coalition for Fair Trade of Hardwood Plywood and filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission to put a stop to Chinese plywood dumping.
In its decision to vote against the coalition’s petition, the ITC cited growth in the U.S. hardwood plywood industry from 17.2% of the market in 2010 to 22.7% in the first half of 2013. The ITC also maintained the Chinese supplied only the low-end plywood while the domestic product is used for cabinet fronts and sides.
Furthermore, the ITC said, there is little chance the Chinese will enter the higher end of the hardwood plywood market in the “imminent future.” The commission concluded the hardwood plywood industry in the United States is not threatened by plywood from China.
“What happens in real life is importers who have been relying on the cheaper Chinese product begin to think to themselves, ‘Maybe I should go find a domestic supplier,'” Levin said.
Gillespie and his counterparts at the five other hardwood plywood companies that filed the ITC petition are trying to decide what to do next. The coalition has until the middle of February to decide whether to appeal.
Levin believes an appeal could be successful. “This is a determination that is just full of partial analysis, and that omits many points of very strong probative evidence, not the least of which is that although the ITC is directed by law to consider the magnitude of the dumping margin, they did nothing but mention it in a passing footnote,” Levin said.
The ITC declined to comment.