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The following has been announced today by American Consumers for Affordable
U.S. Senators Don Nickles (R-OK), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Richard Durbin (D- IL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Bob Graham (D-FL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), James Inhofe (R- OK), Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) late Monday introduced a bipartisan concurrent resolution urging that the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement of 1996 (SLA) be allowed to terminate this spring. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) has also signed the resolution. A similar resolution was introduced in the last congressional session last spring by a group of bipartisan U.S. Senators.
Senate Con. Res. 4 calls for the termination of the SLA "with no extension or further quota agreement" when it expires on April 1, 2001.
The SLA was signed in 1996 to restrict lumber shipments from Canada to the United States, but has been opposed by a broad-based group of consumer groups, trade organizations, and companies that represent more than 95 percent of U.S. softwood lumber consumption. They have formed an alliance known as, American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH).
The 15-member ACAH includes: Abitibi Consolidated Sales Corporation, CHEP USA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Coalition for Indian and Housing Development, Consumers for World Trade, Free Trade Lumber Council, Home Depot, International Mass Retail Association, Leggett & Platt, Inc., Manufactured Housing Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic Contractors Association.
In announcing the resolution, Nickles pointed out that the SLA is hampering too many Americans, especially those desiring to enter the housing market for the first time.
"It's time for the SLA to end without any extensions," the Senate Assistant Majority Leader said. He pointed out that by restricting the supply of finished lumber for framing homes and remodeling, the agreement has artificially raised the average cost of a new home by approximately $1,000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that additional $1,000 prevents 300,000 families from obtaining mortgages so they can own their own homes.
"The Softwood Lumber Agreement has increased price volatility in lumber markets, restricted the amount of imports from Canada, and had a negative impact on housing affordability, making it a bad deal for U.S. home buyers and home owners," said Robert Mitchell, president of the 203,000-member National Association of Home Builders. "We believe both the governments of the United States and Canada should get out of the business of regulating lumber trade. Therefore, we strongly urge the Bush Administration to let the SLA expire when it is scheduled to terminate as scheduled on April 1, 2001."
Sen. Nickles said: "It's time for our trade policy to reflect fairness to the American people. Expiration of the SLA will be a major step in creating a climate of compassion for all Americans."
In addition to calling for the termination of the SLA when it expires on April 1, the resolution calls upon the President to "consult with consumers of softwood lumber products in future discussions regarding open trade of softwood lumber between the United States and Canada."