Washington — U.S. vinyl flooring and tile makers are pushing for tariffs on Chinese imports, arguing it will result in more domestic investment and jobs, and help them overcome a flood of imports.
But importers and others predict it will lead to higher prices on vinyl products — with luxury vinyl tile, or LVT among the fastest growing categories within flooring — and will be particularly harmful to budget conscious home buyers and remodelers.
Two U.S. vinyl flooring makers, Mohawk Industries Inc. and Congoleum Corp., testified in favor of 25 percent tariffs at an Aug. 21 Washington hearing.
The vinyl flooring duties are part of a huge new package of tariffs the Trump administration has proposed against $200 billion in Chinese imports, on top of the tariffs on $50 billion of imports that have been phased in since early July.
"I can state unequivocally that U.S. manufacturing and jobs would increase if Chinese imports would stop flooding the market," said Brian Carson, president of the North American flooring business for Calhoun, Ga.-based Mohawk, which calls itself the world's largest maker of flooring products, with 49 factories and 21,000 employees in the United States.
He told an interagency tariff review panel, led by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, that in the vinyl flooring markets, imports from Asia, primarily China, occupy between 55 and 70 percent of the market. Last year, China exported $1.7 billion of vinyl flooring to the U.S., he said.
"Unlike many opponents [of tariffs] who do not manufacture flooring products in the United States, Mohawk has remained committed to U.S. manufacturing and technology innovations, despite tremendous pressure exerted by Chinese imports," Carson said. "The return on these investments have been and will continue to be adversely effected if China's unfair trade, intellectual property and industrial policies remain unrestrained."
In 2016, Mohawk announced it was investing $100 million in luxury vinyl tile production at its Dalton, Ga., plant.