Reimporting Wood From North America

Michael Mandel recently did a post highlighting how incredibly dominant China has become in the manufacturing of knicknaks:

[A]long the way, I picked up something very odd…a bag of eco-friendly aromatic cedar balls that were labelled “Grown in USA, Made in China.” Grown in USA, Made in China???

If I’m interpreting the label correctly, cedar is grown in the U.S. (“100% eastern red cedar—a self-renewing, non-endangered resource” according to the website). Is it possible that the wood is shipped to China, turned into little cedar balls in Chinese factories, and then shipped back to the U.S.?

I can’t speak to this product in particular, but the Ningbo Embody Gift Co of Zhejiang appears to make a range of products from Canadian and American timber, primarily for export. It’s a reminder, I think, that a lot of the globalization story is a transportation story. Shipping wood across the Pacific twice sounds mighty impractical, though apparently it makes sense. Presumably higher taxes on wood products imported from abroad would cause some of this employment to shift back to the US, but also cut down on lumber production. When it comes to a product like “eco-friendly aromatic cedar balls” one suspects that the bulk of the value-added is actually in marketing and branding (i.e., persuading people that this is something they need) rather than cutting down trees or manufacturing the balls.