Cabinet distributors confident Chinese RTA imports have caused no harm, make final push
WASHINGTON - A little over a week away from a February 20 U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) final injury hearing, a group of cabinet distributors says it is preparing a final push against the trade petition, and that it's confident that the ITC will find that imports of ready-to assemble (RTA) cabinets have not injured the petitioners in the wooden cabinets and vanities from China trade case. 
The petition in mention comes from American Kitchen Cabinet Alliance, which claimed China's "manipulation and unfair trade practices" has resulted in a significant rise of the Chinese cabinetry imports, creating a threat to the estimated $9.6 billion American industry. The scope of the petition covers both face-frame and frameless cabinets, made of solid wood and composite panel construction, RTA cabinetry, cabinetry components including doors, drawers, back and end panels, as well as desks, shelves, and tables that are attached to or incorporated in the merchandise.

The petition has been countered by the American Coalition of Cabinet Distributors, a group made up of U.S. distributors, dealers, contractors, installers and importers, which claims imposition of the proposed duties could significantly impact the RTA option from the U.S. marketplace.

In a letter released today, the ACCD wrote:

“We hope that the Commission 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. “Over the past ten years, American entrepreneurs have built the RTA sector from nothing, developing warehouse and distribution cabinetry businesses that utilize global supply chains to reliably provide customers with affordable and high-quality cabinets in a matter of days. These companies and the products they distribute help support tens of thousands of jobs across the United States.” The full letter can be found here.
“We are confident that the ITC will look at the facts of this case and find no injury,” said ACCD counsel Matthew Nicely, Partner, Hughes Hubbard & Reed. “The thriving U.S. cabinet market is approximately $30 billion, far larger than petitioners claim, and imports from China comprise well less than 10% of the total U.S. market. The fair trade laws were simply not meant to be used to impose trade restrictions on imports that are growing their own market in the United States based on distinct, qualitative product characteristics that are unavailable from domestically sourced merchandise.”
They write that RTA companies serve a niche demand for RTA cabinets in the U.S. that prioritize limited selection and short lead times over customized products that take many weeks to complete.  
This comes soon after bipartisan members of congress wrote a letter to the ITC - urging it to "protect the American cabinet and vanity industry from alleged Chinese dumping of kitchen cabinets across the U.S. market."
Relations between the ACCD and AKCA have been turbulent since the petition was brought forth in March.

The AKCA has targeted importers on their tariff exclusion applications. Companies hoping to get an exclusion must explain to the U.S. Trade Representative's office why they think they deserve one. There's also a spot for comments from the public and organizations, who can choose to support or oppose the application.

AKCA submitted comments on the applications of several importers of RTA cabinets. On CNC Cabinetry's application, the AKCA wrote:
"RTA imports do not constitute a separate, niche market, but rather a part of the U.S. market, as they compete head-to-head with the cabinets and vanities produced by the domestic industry, regardless of whether they are assembled or in RTA form. Both assembled and RTA cabinets are comparable with regard to quality, lead times, and other purchasing factors."
CNC Cabinetry countered:
"AKCA argues RTA cabinets are 'interchangeable' with domestic made-to-order stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets. However, as emphasized in CNC’s request, short lead times and efficient delivery methods set RTA cabinets apart from the made-to-order cabinets produced by domestic manufacturers. These characteristics allow RTA cabinets to appeal to a completely different set of customers than made-to-order domestic cabinets."

Similar exchanges can be seen on other applications, including Fabuwood's.

In October, the Department of Commerce announced an affirmative preliminary determination in the antidumping duty investigation of imports of wooden cabinets, vanities, and components from China, finding that exporters from China have dumped wooden cabinets in the United States at margins ranging from 4.49 to 262.18 percent.
The AKCA commended the preliminary determination, which it says is an important continuation of the work to address unfairly traded Chinese imports of wooden cabinets and vanities. Preliminary duties range from 4.49% to 262.18%, with most Chinese producers facing antidumping duties of 39.25%.
"This is a good next step in the process of leveling the playing field for American manufacturers, and we look forward to the final determinations," Perry Miller, president of Kountry Wood Products, said at the time. "Today's determination makes it possible to move forward and continue to fight for our workers and for American jobs. We are all grateful to the Department of Commerce for their continued work on this issue."
In response to the DOC's preliminary decision, the ACCD had said:
“It is important to understand that an affirmative finding does not in any way suggest that imports of RTA cabinets and vanities from China are causing injury to the made-to-order cabinet industry behind this petition. In fact, the U.S. cabinet industry overall is healthy and growing.  

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Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected].