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Consumer and business group
representatives applauded today's preliminary ruling by a World Trade
Organization (WTO) panel that countervailing duties imposed by the U.S.
Commerce Department on Canadian softwood lumber imports should be overturned.
A final WTO decision on the countervailing duties is expected next month
and could be subject to three months of appeals.
"This is a significant victory for consumers and affordable housing in the
U.S.," said Susan Petniunas, a spokesperson for the American Consumers for
Affordable Homes, an alliance of 18 large national associations and companies.
"The U.S. lumber companies once again have lost their argument that Canadian
lumber is subsidized. We urge the Bush administration to accept this decision
and to end its appeals and challenges in the WTO or in NAFTA (North American
Free Trade Agreement). The duties are totally unfair to consumers, and
painful for home buyers."
Canada has filed similar appeals against the duties with NAFTA, which is
not expected to rule until next February.
If allowed to stand, the countervailing duties, along with anti-dumping
duties subject to a separate appeal, would average 27.2 percent and could add
more than $1,000 to the cost of a new home, and price as many as
300,000 families out of the housing market. "While $1,000 may not sound like
much to some people, for many families trying to buy a home for the first
time, it can make a decisive difference between being able to qualify for a
mortgage, or not," Petniunas said. "The time has come for the Administration
to recognize that these duties hurt our need for affordable housing, and for
jobs within lumber consuming industries."
Because there are not enough trees available to produce lumber for home
building in the U.S., Canadian lumber imports are absolutely vital for the
construction of affordable new homes and to make improvements on existing
homes in America. The U.S. relies on Canada and other sources for
approximately 37 percent of the lumber it needs.
Led by International Paper, Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple
Inland and southern landowners, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports filed
petitions with the U.S. Commerce Department more than a year ago alleging that
domestic lumber producers had been harmed by Canadian softwood lumber imports
and asking for countervailing and antidumping duties. The International Trade
Commission approved the Commerce Department's action, and duties were imposed
at the end of May.
More than 110 members of the U.S. House and Senate have signed resolutions
or written letters to President Bush over the past year opposing duties and
indicating their support for free trade in lumber between the U.S. and Canada.
"Since 1983, some of the large U.S. producers and landowners have
periodically charged Canada with subsidizing its lumber industry, and they
have consistently lost when Canada has appealed preliminary decisions,"
Petniunas said. "We believe they will continue to fail on this round of
ACAH members represent more than 95 percent of the lumber consumption in
the U.S. Members include American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, Catamount
Pellet Fuel Corporation, CHEP International, Citizens for a Sound Economy,
Consumers for World Trade, Freemont Forest Group Corporation, Free Trade
Lumber Council, 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.