Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Suite deal or abuse of process?

Payments to U.S. Rivals Let Chinese Furniture Makers Skirt Import-Duty Review (WSJ)
Each year since 2006, U.S. furniture "makers" have asked the Commerce Department to review the U.S. duties paid by Chinese manufacturers on imports of wooden bedroom furniture. Many Chinese firms, fearing a steep rise in duties, agreed within months each time to pay cash to their U.S. competitors in return for being removed from the review list.

"Everybody in the industry in the U.S. and China understands that these payments are clever shakedowns," said William Silverman, a lawyer representing U.S. furniture retailers, big importers of Chinese products, at an October hearing of the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Representatives of the furniture makers, including La-Z-Boy Inc. and Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co., say the payments are legal. Late last month, those two companies and about 15 other U.S. furniture makers sought the latest review, listing 110 Chinese firms.

In a note included in a December ITC report, Commissioner Daniel Pearson said the settlements create "additional costs and distortions" in furniture trade, "with little evidence that these distortions have yielded any benefits to the industry overall, the U.S. consumer, or the U.S. taxpayer."

Commissioner Charlotte Lane said at the October hearing that she was "very, very troubled" by the settlements, adding: "I cannot figure out for the life of me how they are actually legal."

She might consider "abuse of process" to figure out if they are not.

Maybe if US furniture "makers" actually made furniture ...?

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