Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard
Hardwood plywood manufacturers in Oregon are crying foul when it comes to imports from China, and on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden took up their cry.
Wyden wrote letters to three federal agencies asking them to investigate alleged illegal and unfair practices by Chinese competitors that threaten U.S. hardwood plywood manufacturers.
The decorative plywood - in cherry, walnut or oak, for example - enhances cabinets, furniture and interior moldings. Unlike softwood plywood, the hardwood variety is not used in construction.
Oregon-based companies account for roughly 70 percent of the hardwood plywood manufactured in the United States and directly employ several thousand workers, according to industry sources. Many more Oregonians work for suppliers or related companies, the sources said.
"This is high-stakes stuff," said Wyden, who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"What's at stake are a lot of good-paying, family-wage jobs in our state, certainly in the southwestern part of the state," he said.
Imports of hardwood plywood from China into the United States have spiked in recent years, rising from 442,000 cubic meters in 2003 to a projected 2.3 million cubic meters this year, according to figures collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Over the same period, imports from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Europe have been relatively flat, said Steve Reister, chairman of the board of the Hardwood Plywood & Veneer Association, a trade group based in Reston, Va.
Two U.S. mills that made the product were shuttered in the past six months, Reister said. Neither facility was in Oregon, but Oregon mills could be the next to go, if China's unfair manufacturing and trade practices are allowed to continue, said Reister and executives at Springfield-based Timber Products Co. and Eugene-based States Industries.
The local producers' biggest complaint is that Chinese manufacturers aren't held to the same environmental and quality standards as products manufactured in the United States. …