The Office of U.S. Trade Representative recently announced investigations into Vietnamese trade practices that could further disrupt furniture supply chains. One alleges currency manipulation. The other claims that some wood product exports to the United States are made with illegally harvested timber.
The Home Furnishings Association understands what this could mean to furniture retailers. They already are dealing with severe supply chain disruptions and unanticipated price increases just when customers are depending on them to fulfill their home furnishings needs.
The HFA is making sure the voice of furniture retail is heard. CEO Mark Schumacher this week sent a letter to leaders in Washington, D.C. While HFA has no issue with the USTR investigation and does not condone the alleged violations by Vietnam, it believes that furniture retail businesses should not be penalized. HFA is asking that the USTR be allowed to complete a full and thorough investigation rather than take punitive action before all the facts are determined. The HFA urges a resolution of any differences between the United States and Vietnam without doing further harm to furniture retail businesses or the American economy.
The demand for furniture is strong
The Covid-19 crisis has been a trying time for our entire country. Members of the North American Home Furnishings Association (HFA), home furnishings retailers, were forced to shut down their businesses back in March. Once businesses were allowed to reopen, the rebound for our industry was and is significant, thanks to a pent-up demand for furniture. Our retail segment, therefore, has been a huge boost to the economy on a local, state and national level at a time when other retail sectors remained closed.
Unfortunately, in the last few months there have been gaps in the supply chain that have been exposed due to factory closures around the world. It is difficult for retailers to procure product, which has resulted in delays in their ability to deliver furniture to customers. We are also seeing some price increases as a result of this shortage. Any negative impact on supply or pricing at this point would only add insult to injury to our retail industry and would harm the recovery from the Covid-19 shutdowns. This would affect consumers, our retailers and our economy negatively.
The allegations contained in the USTR 301 investigation into Vietnam are very concerning on many levels, and we do not condone any of the practices alleged. We know that the due process of the trade representative will be thorough and eventually there will be conclusions on all of these allegations. There will then be opportunities for the U.S. and Vietnam to work out solutions to these serious issues.
Let the process reach a factual conclusion
In the meantime, the Home Furnishings Association is asking that the USTR be given the ability to fully work through its investigative process. Further, we feel that any interim sanctions or punitive actions prior to those conclusions would negatively impact the home furnishing retail industry recovery through price hikes and further disruption of the supply chain and therefore would hurt the U.S. economy as a whole.
HFA supports all efforts to 1) safely meet the needs of American consumers 2) help grow our economy 3) support environmentally sensitive practices and 4) promote fair and responsible business standards.
Mark Schumacher, Chief Executive Officer
North American Home Furnishings Association