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U.S. household furniture trade gap narrows.

The U.S. trade deficit for wood and upholstered residential furniture decreased under $2 billion last year for the first time since 1984, according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.

U.S. furniture exports hit a record high of $764 million, which was up 28 percent from the $599 million that was shipped in 1990. Furniture imports dropped 5 percent from $2.854 billion to $2.713 billion.

The narrowing trade deficit follows a three-year trend. Since 1989, the deficit has been slashed by a total $1.775 billion.

Neighbors across the borders

In January of 1989, the Free Trade Agreement with Canada was signed. Two years later, the trade balance for wood and upholstered furniture with that country went from a $28 million deficit in 1990 to a $61 million surplus last year. In 1990 Canada sent $359 million worth of wood furniture across the border. One year later this number dropped to $346 million. In that same time frame, U.S. exports to Canada rose from $331 million to $407 million.

U.S. furniture manufacturers also made inroads into Mexico as their Mexican counterparts made inroads into this country. Exports to Mexico rose 53 percent from $58 million to $89 million. Imported furniture from Mexico rose 7 percent from $174 million to $186 million.

The Pacific Rim

Of the more than $2.7 billion worth of furniture imported into the U.S. in 1991, 44 percent came from seven Pacific Rim countries. The countries of Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Philippines and China sent $1.192 billion of imports into the U.S. With the exception of South Korea and the Philippines, each of these countries saw substantial growth in 1991.

While Taiwan led all countries with $683 million in imports to the U.S., a growth of 6 percent from 1990's $644 million total, the other countries in the region are taking more of the import pie. The $683 million represents a 42 percent decrease from the $1.17 billion in imports sent to the U.S. by Taiwan in 1987. Taiwan is being hurt by the increased value of its dollar. Surrounding countries also have competitive advantages in abundant timber resources and lower labor costs.

Among the rest of the Pacific Rim nations, Malaysia had the highest percentage growth, growing 55 percent in 1991. China, which grew 32 percent in 1991, exported more goods to the U.S. than any Pacific Rim country other than Taiwan. It exported $132 million in furniture to the U.S. Thailand was next growing 10 percent to $96 million in 1991.

Largest import and export growth

For U.S. manufacturers shipping out of this country, France grew by the greatest percentage amount. U.S. shipments to France grew 167 percent in 1991 from $6 million to $16 million. Next came Saudi Arabia, which grew 79 percent from $28 million to $50 million.

Malaysia had the biggest percentage jump of countries sending furniture into the U.S. growing 55 percent. Following Malaysia, imports from China grew 32 percent and Indonesia grew 26 percent.
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Author:Adams, Larry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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