Local furniture companies damaged by illegal imports, Schumer says U.S. Customs is not collecting tariffs

Senator Chuck Schumer

Senator Chuck Schumer was in Manlius Wednesday, calling upon Customs and Border Protection to collect fees from Chinese furniture companies who he says unfairly compete with U.S. furniture producers and damage businesses such as Manlius's Stickley Audi and Co. and McConnellsvilleâ??s Harden Furniture.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Schumer said domestic companies are missing out on potentially tens of millions of dollars in antidumping fees that the federal government has not collected from illegal Chinese wooden furniture imports. These companies have been accused of flooding the furniture market with cheap knockoffs.

"It is illegal to put any product on the world market for lower than your cost and the reason you do it is you hope to capture the market, wipe out all your competitors, like Stickley, and then have a monopoly and raise the price," said Schumer.

Schumer's office says in 2005 the International Trade Commission began to charge a penalty on cheap Chinese wooden furniture imports, whose prices are artificially low due to deceptive and illegal trade practices.

"It is simply unacceptable that Customs and Border Protection officials have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to collecting the mandated fees on illegal Chinese furniture imports, which are intended to level the playing field for domestic furniture manufacturers that are playing by the rules. The CBP cannot even identify the bad actors that continue to break the law. This negligence has cost furniture manufacturers tens of millions of dollars across the country, and it is felt deeply at home where Stickley Furniture, one of Central New York's landmark companies, has been denied an estimated $2 million dollars in uncollected fees," said Schumer in a news release. "This lost revenue not only prevents Stickley from being able to expand and grow, but it also creates unfair competition for this home-grown business."

The company, which opened in 1900, says it is owed about $2 million dollars from these fees, money it says it could use to boost production, keep jobs, and hire workers. Stickley currently employees approximately 850 people at its Manlius site.

"I would put our team against any team in any industry and we would be number one. So all we are asking for is that we compete on an equal and level playing field," said CEO Aminy Audi.

Schumer says he has been in touch with Customs and Border Patrol, and says he hasn't been able to get an answer as to why they stopped collecting the tariff in 2010.

"We're all for free trade as long as it is fair trade. This is not fair. No one can defend what's happening, there is not one argument on the other side," said Schumer.

Harden Furniture in Oneida County believes they have lost out on a million dollars since Border and Custom agents stopped collecting the tariffs in 2010. CEO Greg Harden says that money would be used to fund a $3 million renovation that is just underway at their McConnellsville facility that employs 250 people.