Washington — For Michigan molder Bohning Co. Ltd., the Donald Trump administration's latest proposed tariffs on Chinese imports would be a much-needed boost in its costly battle against product counterfeiting.
CEO Larry Griffith said his rural Michigan injection molder and extruder has been plagued by Chinese companies violating its intellectual property on its main products: bows, arrows and high-end archery equipment.
To try to stop that, the small company has spent several hundred thousand dollars wading into the Chinese legal system, going so far as to accompany Chinese police on raids against factories that export fake Bohning bows and arrows worldwide.
"If we didn't do something, we were going to be put out of business by people using our name, using our brands and basically stealing our identity," Griffith said. "We had very few choices."
Tariffs, he said, will help level the playing field for his company and protect jobs for the 41 employees at Bohning's Lake City, Mich., factory.
Griffith linked the two issues — business lost to Chinese IP theft and the need for tariffs — in written comments June 6 to the U.S. Trade Representative's office, and in a subsequent interview with Plastics News.
Archery products are part of the Trump administration's latest round of proposed tariffs, which call for 25 percent duties on $300 billion in Chinese imports.
With the on and off nature of trade talks between the two countries, including ongoing high-level discussions, it's not clear if the new tariffs will go into effect.
The tariffs drew sometimes strident opposition from many industry groups and companies during hearings in Washington that stretched from June 17–25, but others like Griffith were not taking any chances and urged the Trump administration to stick with its tariff plans.
Like so many situations on the ongoing trade battle between the U.S. and China, though, it can get complicated.
Other archery products makers and the industry's trade association lined up on the opposite side from Bohning, traveling to Washington June 18 to testify and urge the Trump administration to drop the tariffs.
The Archery Trade Association said that only a minority of archery and bowhunting gear sold in the United States is made domestically. China accounts for a "substantial" portion of equipment sold in the U.S. and dominates in the moderately priced market, ATA said.
ATA is very concerned that tariffs will jack up prices and lower sales for what is a very discretionary purchase, costing jobs at both small retailers and manufacturers, said Jon Syverson, an executive with archery equipment maker FeraDyne Outdoors LLC, who testified on behalf of the association.
"I'm afraid that archery retailers and consumers do not yet appreciate the magnitude in increased prices coming their way," Syverson said. "Many manufacturers like me will need to look for cost offsets, and their largest cost is labor, so they'll cut jobs. The global archery supply chain is complex, so there's no quick workaround for the increased prices caused by the tariffs."