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    Consumers File Amicus Brief With NAFTA Opposing Canadian Softwood Lumber Duties

    on 10/8/02.

    A friend-of-the-court brief was filed
    yesterday on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders and the
    National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association urging a North
    American Free Trade Agreement bi-national panel to reject 27 percent duties
    resulting from a U.S. International Trade Commissions (ITC) finding of "threat
    of material injury" to U.S. lumber producers from Canadian softwood lumber
    Last May, the ITC found that a potential threat existed, even though it
    found no evidence of an actual injury to U.S. industry. It approved
    27 percent Commerce Department duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports,
    which went into effect later that month.
    Yesterday's brief, filed on behalf of two members of the American
    Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), an 18 member Alliance of U.S. lumber
    consumers and free trade advocates who comprise more than 95 percent of
    domestic and imported lumber consumption, is the only way consumers can be
    heard on this trade issue, according to an ACAH spokesperson.
    "The brief represents lumber dealers, home builders and other industries
    that rely on Canadian lumber -- from all regions of the country --
    representing the broad cross section of Americans who are being harmed by what
    amounts to a 27 percent federal sales tax imposed on lumber," said Susan
    Petniunas, spokesperson for the ACAH. "It is unfortunate that trade laws do
    not allow consumers direct participation on an equal basis with industry in
    disputes like this. After all, consumers are the ones who end up paying the
    cost in higher prices, just to benefit a few U.S. companies."
    The brief includes extensive documentation that there is little
    overlapping among U.S. produced timber species and those imported from Canada,
    and that Canadian softwood lumber is not an adequate substitute for U. S.
    southern yellow pine in most of its uses.
    Each type of lumber has distinct properties, functions and applications
    that can make it a poor substitute for other species, homebuilders and lumber
    dealers testified before the ITC.
    Most lumber produced in the U.S. is southern yellow pine. In Canada, most
    timber harvested is spruce pine fir. The U.S. relies on imported lumber to
    meet about 30 percent of its needs.
    "If the entire 27 percent duties are passed on to U.S. consumers, they
    could add as much as $1,000 to the cost of a new home, and price as many as
    300,000 families out of the housing market," Petniunas said.
    "These potential home buyers would not able to qualify for mortgages," she
    added. "And while $1,000 may not sound like much to some people, for many
    first-time homeowners and seniors seeking to reduce their housing costs in
    retirement, it can make the difference between being able to buy a home or
    not," she said.
    The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, led by International Paper,
    Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple Inland, and southern landowners,
    filed petitions alleging that they have been harmed by Canadian softwood
    lumber imports and asking for countervailing and antidumping duties.
    More than 100 members of the U.S. House and Senate have signed resolutions
    or written letters to President George W. Bush over the past year, indicating
    their support for free trade in lumber, and urging no new taxes or penalties
    on consumers. Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber-
    consuming businesses, including homebuilders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and
    such industries as window and bed makers. U.S. workers for lumber-consuming
    industries outnumber lumber-producing workers by 30 to 1.
    ACAH members include American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, Catamount
    Pellet Fuel Corporation, CHEP International, Citizens for a Sound Economy,
    Consumers for World Trade, Free Trade Lumber Council, Fremont Forest Group
    Corporation, The Home Depot, International Mass Retail Association,
    International Sleep Products Association, Leggett & Platt
    Inc., Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, Manufactured
    Housing Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Black
    Chamber of Commerce, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers
    Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic
    Contractors Association.