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An alliance of American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), formed to oppose continued quotas or taxes on softwood lumber imports from Canada, today called a proposal from Steven R. Rogel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Weyerhaeuser, the wrong idea at the wrong time.
Rogel has proposed that the Canadian government impose a border tax of as much as 25 percent on lumber going into the U.S. Currently, the U.S. is imposing countervailing and antidumping duties of 27 percent on imports, which were implemented last May.
"This is a wrong idea at the wrong time," said Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for ACAH. "Canada has won its cases several times in the past in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and has already had significant victories this time. We believe that Canada will win again, and that it should pursue free trade and open markets in lumber between the U.S. and Canada."
"ACAH believes that if the cases are handled expeditiously in the WTO and NAFTA, decisions should be announced within the next several months, possibly as early as February or March from NAFTA," Petniunas said. "If there are no appeals to drag the process out, a resolution to this lumber war can be achieved," Petniunas added.
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 a third 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 have 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. Workers in the lumber consuming business outnumber jobs in lumber production 25-1.
The 27 percent duties already in place 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. ACAH has opposed those taxes.
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, Fremont 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.