At the G-20 next week, President Trump and President Xi will meet again to talk about trade. As we all look forward to that important event, it is worth thinking about what is at stake and how everyday American jobs hang in the balance.
What does a manufacturing plant do for a small town? It weaves into the fabric of the community; it becomes the backbone of the middle class. What happens when it closes? That social fabric is ripped apart and the middle class becomes in danger of collapsing.
In Virginia, we know this all too well. Custom furniture was long a staple of Virginia’s manufacturing economy, but that industry has been slowly dying here, just as it has been dying throughout the country.
In my home state of Virginia, I see the kitchen cabinet industry going the same way, and for the same reason: China is illegally subsidizing and dumping products into the United States. Woodworking in Virginia is under threat again.
We have already seen the decimation of the American furniture industry, especially here. Now, American Woodmark, a kitchen cabinet manufacturer based in Winchester, VA, has been worrying about Chinese imports and has started to see their sales impacted.
A few years ago, E.A. Clore Sons Inc., a Virginia manufacturer of quality wood furniture, announced it would be closing. Clore began as a family business, handcrafting cabinets and other furniture, building a business that was lauded throughout the country.
President Hoover’s newly built camp in what is now the Shenandoah National Park was furnished by Clore. That nearly 200-year history almost came to an end last year, when low-priced, mass-produced furniture threatened to crowd out quality and shut down this Virginia institution.
The company was only saved when longtime customers flooded them with orders, a hometown solution for a global issue. That is a heartwarming end to an all-too-familiar story, but it is not a sustainable solution to this looming crisis.
In recent weeks, 938 American workers lost their jobs in Pennsylvania due in large part to China’s unfair trade practices. As one can imagine, the closure of any facility in a small town has a devastating impact across the local community.
China has been subsidizing and dumping kitchen cabinets into the U.S. for years and has placed the whole industry in jeopardy. The kitchen cabinet industry employs tens of thousands of workers throughout the country, including here in Virginia. They are the kind of employers that generations of families work for, and they build the middle class in small towns throughout the country. If they disappear, as American furniture craftsmanship is disappearing, it will punch a hole in communities across the country.
Recently, I have seen what can happen when this issue turns political. American workers who are trying to fight back against a behemoth that is threatening to swallow them whole now have to face a new threat: trade organizations like the American Coalition of Cabinet Distributors that claim they have American interests at heart but may very likely be getting their funding from an interested source. They are trying to tear the industry apart by spreading misinformation, even though an impartial body, The International Trade Commission (ITC), has already asserted that China is a threat to this industry.
I served as a senior advisor in Virginia for Donald Trump in 2016, doing my best to make the case to Virginia voters that he was the right choice for American workers. The way he has focused on trade and the toughness he has shown towards Chinese trade aggression has shown to me that my faith, and the faith of the American people, was not misplaced.
But it has become increasingly clear to me that this is a bipartisan issue and that the more we play politics, the harder it is to focus on the everyday Americans who need our help.
American kitchen cabinet workers are the backbone of America -- they have families to feed and wish to live their lives with responsibility and dignity. They can only continue living their American dream if both sides of the aisle come together to stop the giant threat of Chinese dumping from ruining their livelihoods.
There is a case being heard right now in the ITC about this issue. They have already determined that this complaint has merit and should be investigated further. They have already voted unanimously that this industry has been hurt by Chinese trade practices.
It is my sincere belief that this case is the way to stop China from taking advantage of another American industry, and I know that there are those on both sides of the political spectrum who agree with me.
The time is now for President Trump, the Department of Commerce and all of our elected leaders on Capitol Hill to work together regardless of party on this unifying issue.
The playing field must be fair. If it is, the kitchen cabinet industry will prosper, and everyone can get behind that.