Northwest mill owners take aim at subsidized products from China

EUGENE, Ore. - States Industries makes hardwood plywood, the stuff used to make kitchen cabinets and all kinds of furniture.

But U.S. manufacturers like States Industries face competition from China - competition that a growing chorus of voices is calling illegal.

Northwest mill owners say China is dumping the country's subsidized hardwood products in the U.S. market.

"This is jobs," said Roger Rutan with Timber Products Company in Springfield. "You can look at it, stare at it right in your face. Subsidies and incentives for export. They subsidize loans. They subsidize employee wages."

Those subsidies have given China 60 percent of the U.S. hardwood market, mill owners contend.

They want the U.S. International Trade Commission and Commerce Department to get tough.

In the mills' corner: Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

"We've at least convinced the initial set of bureaucrats that we've got a strong case," DeFazio said. "I mean to me, it's an open-shut."

The mills want a duty or tariff slapped on the Chinese products, penalties up to 200 percent.

Having just gone through a presidential campaign where jobs were front and center, this sort of trade dispute is where the rubber meets the road. DeFazio expects quick action on the petition against China.

"If we have a level playing field, we think that our products will be preferred over the Chinese," said Mike Taylor, president of States Industries.

DeFazio thinks the case is so strong that temporary measures could go into place early next year.

"I'll be pushing hard for that," he said. "I mean, if we lose this industry, it's not coming back."