Leggett & Platt among companies harmed by alleged Chinese dumping
Leggett & Platt, others allege Chinese dumping
After a group of mattress manufacturers across the country, including Carthage-based Leggett & Platt Inc., filed a petition accusing China of selling products in the U.S. economy at less than fair market value, investigators have made a preliminary determination that the American market has been harmed by the practice.
The United States International Trade Commission announced recently it has found a “reasonable indication” that the dumping L&P and others have accused China of has occurred and that it has had a damaging effect on U.S. manufacturers.
In trade discussions, “dumping” refers to the practice of selling products internationally at prices that are lower than “fair market value,” said Amy DeArmond, director of government affairs for L&P.
“If they are coming in at prices that are lower than what we can sell at profitably, obviously that puts a strain on either keeping that business and having to sell it at lower prices than where we would be at normally or losing that business altogether,” she said. “Ultimately the ability to gain revenue hits our ability to maintain employee counts and our ability to keep production running.”
DeArmond said selling exported products at less than market value breaks trade laws and could mean the U.S. could eventually seek some kind of compensatory measures. In a news release from late September announcing the allegations, the group of American manufacturers — nine companies in all — said the margin between market value and the prices China has charged is between 267 and 1,777 percent.
Neither L&P nor the Trade Commission has provided a dollar amount estimate of the impact from the alleged dumping, and the formal complaint the companies filed is marked confidential on the trade commission’s website, limiting the details that are publicly available. The commission’s full report on the matter is not expected until after Nov. 30, its news release said. Attempts to reach a USITC spokesperson on Friday were not successful.
However, the companies’ announcement from September explains the degree to which China’s products have allegedly been marked down.
“By relying on dumped prices, including adult mattresses sold at $18 per mattress, Chinese exporters have captured increasing market share at the expense of the U.S. industry and U.S. jobs,” the release said.
DeArmond said companies that dump products at less than market value are often still able to benefit in a number of ways despite the reduced prices.
“Part of it is gaining market share,” she said. “Part of it is export gains and other things they might gain. The Chinese government encourages exports because of the capacity they have in China, so there’s a variety of reasons that a company might participate in dumping.”
The next step, according to DeArmond and the USITC, is a formal investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce into the costs of production in China, the country’s practices with it’s exports and the impact to the American market. A determination on whether the United States should impose anti-dumping duties on China is expected by Feb. 28, 2019, the commission said.
According to the commission, the mattress industry shipped 16,754,826 mattresses domestically in 2017 for a total value of $4.5 billion. A total of 6,114,504 mattresses were imported into the country for a total value of $781 million. The organization says China was the leading exporter of mattresses to the U.S. both by value and quantity.
The problem of international dumping doing harm to the U.S. economy is not a new one, DeArmond said, and a “wide swath of countries” has been found to do so over several decades.
“Basically, they are underselling for the purpose of taking away market share,” she said. “In some cases that can be lower than the actual cost of production, so it’s not just, ‘I’m usually selling this for $12 and I’m going to sell it for $11.99.’ It’s something much greater than that.”
The American manufacturers, in their news release announcing the investigations, claim to represent more than 50 percent of the total U.S. mattress market. The companies say they combine to operate 50 plants in 20 states and employ more than 8,000 people.