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Hispanic Contractors Urge Congress to Seek Commerce Department Reversal of Decision to Impose 19.3 Percent 'Federal Sale…
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Hispanic Contractors Urge Congress to Seek Commerce Department Reversal of Decision to Impose 19.3 Percent 'Federal Sale…

The United States Hispanic Contractors Association (USHCA), the fastest growing Hispanic business association in the U.S. with more than 130,000 member firms in 15 states, today added its voice to other consumer groups appealing to members of Congress to encourage the Commerce Department to reverse its preliminary decision to impose 19.3 percent duties on all softwood lumber imported from Canada, and to move to free lumber trade under NAFTA. The group is headquartered in Austin, Texas. "It's unfortunate that the handful of U.S. forestry companies have sought protectionist action that amounts to imposing a federal sales tax on vital Canadian lumber needed for housing construction," said Frank Fuentes, chairman of the USHCA. "The needed supply of framing lumber is not available in the U.S. since we have historically continued to reduce our supplies of softwood lumber, and state and national forests have increasingly been placed off-limits for logging. Our housing sector can not prosper without Canadian softwood." On August 10, 2001, the Commerce Department announced that it would impose a 19.3 percent countervailing duty on Canadian softwood lumber imports, which accounts for some 35 percent of U.S. softwood lumber consumption. A handful of U.S. producers, led by International Paper, Sierra Pacific, Potlatch and Temple Inland, along with southern landholders, petitioned Commerce to impose the duties when the U.S./Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement expired in April. That agreement put quota restrictions on the amount of lumber imported into the U.S. over a five year period. Fuentes said that the proposed duty could reduce U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth from 0.05 percent to 0.11 percent at a time when GDP -- at last report -- is only 0.3 percent. Later this month, Commerce will rule on a request for an additional 39 percent in dumping duties that will further add to the "unprecedented federal sales tax on lumber in homes, and damage U.S. economic growth," he added. "These trade actions harm consumers all across the U.S." The countervailing duty could raise the cost of a typical new home by $1,000 to $2,000. U.S. Census Bureau data have shown that a price hike of even this amount could drive thousands of households out of the housing market, depriving families of the American dream of home ownership, Fuentes said. "These costs significantly impact lower income, retiring senior citizens and first time homebuyers. If the antidumping duties are added, the numbers will be significantly higher." "We are asking members of Congress to carefully weigh the impact of this trade restraint on housing affordability, and specifically on the fragile homebuilding sector of our economy," Fuentes said. "There is an affordable housing shortage in this country. We are encouraging members of Congress to join with more than 100 members of the Senate and House who are already calling for free trade in lumber through concurrent resolutions in the Senate and House (S. Con. Res. 4 and H. Con. Res. 45)." The two resolutions call for ending trade restraints and moving to free trade in softwood lumber between the U.S. and Canada. "We also are appealing to our U.S. producers to support their customers and to end these senseless turf battles between our two countries," Fuentes said. "We should be working together to expand the market for wood, and compete against the growing use of wood substitutes, such as steel." A similar appeal was made in mid-September by two ACAH member organizations, Manufactured Housing Institute and Manufacturing Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, pointing out that the cost of a manufactured home has increased by as much as $2,000 since the duties were imposed. The average cost of a manufactured home is $43,600. The manufactured housing builders rely on softwood lumber from Canada since southern yellow pine does not have the characteristics required for this type of construction. Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber-using businesses, including home builders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and workers in industries such as wood pallet manufacturers, window frame and bed makers. More than 6 million workers are associated with the consumers of lumber and outnumber lumber-producing workers by 25 to 1 in the United States. The ACAH represents approximately 95 percent of softwood lumber use in the U.S. ACAH members include CHEP USA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, 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.

10/09/2001
Trade, Terror and Truth
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Press Release

Trade, Terror and Truth

Copley News Service, 10/03/2001 In addition to America's battle plan for the war on terrorism, we have to develop a battle plan to combat recession. Even before the terrible events of Sept. 11, the economy was stumbling toward a deflationary recession because of deflationary monetary policy. Coupled with unnecessarily high tax rates on the factors of production and unwarranted regulatory encumbrances, the economy didn't have a chance.

10/03/2001
President Bush Urged to Intervene in Commerce Decision Imposing 19.3 Percent Duties on Canadian Lumber Imports
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President Bush Urged to Intervene in Commerce Decision Imposing 19.3 Percent Duties on Canadian Lumber Imports

Citing its harmful effects on housing consumers, lumber-dependent industries and the overall economy, President George W. Bush was urged today to intervene in a preliminary decision by the Commerce Department to impose countervailing duties of 19.3 percent on softwood lumber imports from Canada. According to the alliance of American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), a 15-member organization that represents over 95 percent of the domestic consumption of lumber in the U.S., in a letter to the President, said that the duties could reduce GDP from 0.05 to 0.11 percent at a time when GDP growth was last reported to be only 0.3 percent. (Letter follows.) "The Commerce Department is considering additional anti-dumping duties of up to 39 percent, which could further reduce the GDP," said Susan Petniunas, ACAH spokesperson. "We urge President Bush to assess this situation, and factor in how Commerce's preliminary determination is negatively impacting the housing sector and other lumber-dependent industries that provide jobs for more than 7 million workers and accounts for 5 percent of the nation's GDP." Softwood lumber imports from Canada account for some 35 percent of U.S. softwood lumber consumption. It is primarily used in framing for homes, including manufactured housing. The supply of softwood lumber in the U.S. has continued to decline over the past 20 years, and much of the supply has been prevented from logging since it is on public lands. A handful of U.S. producers, led by International Paper, Sierra Pacific, Potlatch and Temple Inland, along with southern landholders, petitioned Commerce to impose the duties when the U.S./Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement expired in April. That agreement put quota restrictions on the amount of lumber imported into the U.S. Commerce subsequently issued a preliminary ruling on August 10 that put the 19.3 percent duty in place on Canadian softwood lumber imports. "Expiration of the quota agreement was a positive development for home builders, lumber dealers, and consumers of lumber products, and specifically for affordable housing in America," Petniunas said. "However the countervailing duty is nothing more than a 20 percent federal sales tax being imposed on homebuyers. This, and any additional anti-dumping duties could add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home. This would be especially problematic for families seeking to purchase their first home, and for the elderly looking for more affordable housing, and for the elderly looking for more affordable housing. According to U.S. Census Bureau calculations, the additional cost of these duties could price as many as a half million families out of the mortgage market." The ACAH letter to President Bush said: "The Commerce Department action is even more troubling when you compare it to your Administration's strong free trade position on many other global issues. Supporting this strong free trade position are over 100 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Representing all political spectrums, these lawmakers are calling for open lumber markets between the U.S. and Canada." The U.S. economy would have contracted in the second quarter without the growth in housing investment. "With the fragile nature of our economy, and the importance of the housing sector, ACAH is asking the President to confer with Secretary Evans and reverse the Commerce Department's egregious preliminary decision, and to move our two countries to free trade under NAFTA," Petniunas said. A similar appeal was made recently by two ACAH member organizations, Manufactured Housing Institute and Manufacturing Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, pointing out that the cost of a manufactured home has increased by as much as $2,000 since the duties were imposed. The average cost of a manufactured home is $43,600. The manufactured housing builders rely on softwood lumber from Canada since southern yellow pine does not have the characteristics required for this type of construction. Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber-using businesses, including home builders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and workers in industries such as wood pallet manufacturers, window frame and bed makers. More than 7 million workers are associated with the consumers of lumber and outnumber lumber-producing workers by 25 to 1 in the United States. ACAH members include CHEP USA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, 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.

10/02/2001
Administration Trade Policy Against Canada Significantly Harms Manufactured Housing Buyers According to ACAH
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Administration Trade Policy Against Canada Significantly Harms Manufactured Housing Buyers According to ACAH

Administration Trade Policy Against Canada Significantly Harms Manufactured Housing Buyers According to ACAH

09/19/2001
U.S. Consumer Reps Meet with B.C. Premier, Minister of Forests
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U.S. Consumer Reps Meet with B.C. Premier, Minister of Forests

Several representatives of U.S. consumer and business groups opposed to any new tariffs on Canadian Lumber imports to the U.S. are in Victoria and Vancouver today to meet with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, Forest Minister Mike de Jong, and members of the B.C. Government Caucus Committee on Natural Resources, a delegation of mayors and several forest company executives in the Province. "Our message is simple," said Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for the 15-member alliance, American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH). "We are here urging that Canada and specifically British Columbia, resist negotiating any new trade restraint on softwood lumber exports to the U.S., and that it vigorously join U.S. consumers in continuing to fight recent duties imposed by the Bush Administration. The recent countervailing duty determinations totally political, violates major NAFTA and WTO provisions, and was done in such a way to try and force Canada to once again cower at the negotiating table." The delegation today included leadership from the National Association of Home Builders, National Lumber and Building Materials Association, The Home Depot, and CHEP USA. They emphasized U.S. consumer support for moving the two countries to free trade in lumber and said that there are more than 100 members of the U.S. Congress who recently sent a letter to President Bush expressing their support for U.S. consumer interests instead of the protectionist interests of a segment of the U.S. industry. ACAH members represent more than 95 percent of the U.S. consumption of softwood lumber from Canada. Bobby Rayburn, a home builder from Jackson, Miss., and vice president/secretary of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), said: "NAHB is strongly opposed to any tariffs on Canadian lumber imports. The U.S. Commerce Department's preliminary determination to impose a 19 percent levy will add up to $1,000 to the cost of building a typical new home. U.S. home builders and other domestic industries that depend on Canadian lumber will work very hard to ensure that it is freely traded between the U.S. and Canada." "The recent Commerce decision stands to drastically injure the ability of many U.S. lumber dealers to stay in business," said Mike Fritz, president of Rugg Lumber Co. with lumberyards in Greenfield and Northampton, Massachusetts. He is the chair-elect of the National Lumber and Building Materials Association that represents 9,000 locally owned lumber dealer firms throughout the U.S. "In our industry, contracts are written 3 to 12 months in advance in most cases. A 19 percent tax means that lumber dealers will have to absorb all of this added cost, making it much more difficult for yards struggling with 2-3 percent margins to stay afloat." There have been three previous countervailing duty cases on this issue, and in each case in which it was taken to a final decision, it was ultimately determined that the Canadian government did not provide unfair subsidies to its lumber industry. Fritz added that he felt confident that, "as this case moves forward the ITC and WTO will see right through the numerous and obvious holes in the decision, and invalidate the injustice done August 10. Unfortunately, it will be too late for many lumber dealers and too late for many home builders and new home buyers. When reversed, the U.S. will be forced to refund money collected through the unjust tariff, but lumber dealers and homebuyers will not see refund checks on higher prices they are forced to pay to subsidize the inefficiency and greed of some U.S. producers. The damage to consumers is already done." The Home Depot representative, Steve Conwell, Global Product Merchant for Lumber, told government officials that the uses of Canadian softwood lumber cannot be met by the U.S. supply, and that southern yellow pine is no substitute for Canadian spruce pine fir for most construction needs. "Quite frankly, if we cannot get the types of softwood lumber our customers need, we will look elsewhere. Canada is the logical trading partner for this product, and ending trade restraints is critical." In the U.S., The Home Depot has stores in 48 states, and operations in Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Canada. "As an international company, CHEP strongly believes that free trade in lumber, or anything else, benefits consumers on both sides of the US-Canadian border. In contrast, trade restraints hurt everyone," said Scott Cameron of CHEP USA. "The acquisition cost of the millions of pallets that CHEP buys and then rents every year has gone up in reaction to concerns about unjustified countervailing duties and dumping penalties. These higher costs are passed on to CHEP customers, who use our pallets to ship groceries, fresh produce, and other consumer goods to retail stores. American families and senior citizens are paying for these higher costs at the grocery store checkout counter. Trade restraints amount to nothing less than an unprecedented and regressive national sales tax on food and other essential goods purchased by American consumers. Because it is a regressive tax, it hits less wealthy Americans the hardest," concluded Cameron. Petniunas said that while some characterize this as a lumber producer's issue, "it clearly is not. Consumer viewpoints have been ignored in all prior considerations of this issue, but clearly consumers bear the brunt of any trade restraint imposed. If the 19 percent countervailing duty is not overturned, and the anti-dumping request for duties of 39 percent were to be imposed, more than one million American families will be unable to qualify for mortgages to buy a new home. Most impacted are first-time homebuyers and seniors moving to a more affordable retirement housing. Consumer views must be considered in what we hope will be a fair, open process." Other U.S. alliance members include Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, Free Trade Lumber Council, International Mass Retail Association, International Sleep Products Association, Leggett & Platt Inc., Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, Manufactured Housing Institute, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic Contractors Association.

08/21/2001
Washington Deadline
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Washington Deadline

BY U.S. Consumer Groups Call Commerce Decision to Impose Duties On Canadian Softwood Lumber 'Premature and Inappropriate'

U.S. Consumer groups representing 95 percent of the domestic consumption of softwood lumber today criticized the Commerce Department for what it calls a "premature and totally inappropriate" decision to issue a preliminary determination that there are export subsidies on Canadian softwood lumber, and that it found critical circumstances that would warrant imposing retroactive duties. A result of the decision will be the application of retroactive duties on Canadian lumber imports to the U.S. Commerce today said it had found evidence that imports from Canada increased enough to be a threat to domestic lumber mills, but U.S. consumer groups believe the import data has been inappropriately used. The trade action, along with other protectionist measures sought by the U.S. forestry sector through allegations of dumping of Canadian lumber into the U.S. market, could result in imposing a tariff on softwood lumber imports from Canada of 19.3 percent, which the consumer groups say will be passed on to U.S. consumers. Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for the alliance of American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), a group of 15 major trade associations and companies opposing any new trade restraints or negotiations to restrict Canadian softwood lumber imports, said that the number assigned by Commerce, as well as the initial U.S. producers' request for the imposition of countervailing duties of 40 percent, are both "totally ludicrous." "Clearly 19.3 percent is too much; the number should be zero," she added. "U.S. consumers deserve free trade without any new trade restraints. We are hopeful that a fair process at Commerce will end up considering consumer interests as more significant than those of a small number of U.S. protectionist companies that want to penalize consumers who ultimately pay the cost." Petniunas also said: "It is unconscionable to even think that U.S. importers will absorb the tariffs. Everyone knows they get passed on to the consumer. And, the price of U.S. lumber also goes up accordingly, resulting in profits to the forestry companies. The ultimate victim is the U.S. consumer." "We also believe that critical circumstances cannot be proven nor legally imposed," said Petniunas. "To have critical circumstances, Commerce must show that the imports have increased more than 15 percent, year over year. Our information, which comes from numbers released by the Department of Commerce itself, July 27, shows that that imports increased slightly over 11 percent. Everyone knows that lumber sales increase in the second quarter when more construction of new homes begins." "We believe that a careful analysis will show that there is no factual basis, other than pure political pressure from a handful of U.S. forestry companies, for Commerce to impose what will amount to a hidden tax on all lumber used in homebuilding in the U.S. This penalizes consumers and hurts housing affordability," Petniunas added. She also said consumer groups believe that the duty levels calculated in the preliminary determination and critical circumstance decisions will be eventually reversed because they are not warranted in this case. A final determination would be expected in late September. The antidumping preliminary decision is also expected in September, or in December if the cases are aligned. Consumers believe dumping allegations are unsustainable. U.S. producers have asked for 38 percent duties for dumping allegations which, if added to the 19.3 percent announced today, would put a tax of 75.3 percent on vital Canadian softwood lumber purchased in the U.S. "If the laws are applied in conformity with WTO and NAFTA requirements, Commerce cannot find that increased imports or that export subsidies exist to warrant putting countervailing duties on the backs of consumers." Under trade rules, determining critical circumstances is usually announced as part of a preliminary determination that Commerce has found that exports have increased, and that there is evidence of export subsidies and dumping. Critical circumstances would apply the duties retroactively 90 days from the date the preliminary determination of subsidization or dumping is published in the Federal Register. "A major fact that is being missed in all of this is that the southern yellow pine that U.S. companies want to protect is not a substitute for spruce pine fir from Canada," Petniunas added. "How can you pose a threat to an industry when the products are so different in their characteristics and uses in housing construction?" More than a dozen consumer group representatives testified before the International Trade Commission in April that "a stick is not a stick," and that if they cannot get Canadian softwood, they will turn to other countries that produce spruce pine fir since one is not a substitute for the other. There are no restrictions on how much spruce pine fir can be imported from other countries; the restrictions have only applied to Canada. In July, more than 100 Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Congress jointly sent a letter to President George W. Bush, urging him to assure that the Administration will protect the interests of consumers and workers from potentially onerous duties being requested by U.S. lumber producers seeking to limit the amount of lumber imported from Canada. They called for an open and fair process by Commerce in making any determinations. "It is essential that these cases be handled in a fair and transparent manner, with the interests of U.S. homebuyers and lumber users given due consideration as to other parties," the Members of Congress urged. Duties being sought by some U.S. producers could raise the cost of a typical new home anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. U.S. Census Bureau data have shown that a price hike of such magnitude could drive nearly 1.2 million households out of the housing market each year, depriving them of the American dream of home ownership. These costs significantly impact lower income, retiring senior citizens and first time homebuyers. "Clearly, the economic health of this nation relies, in part, on a strong housing market, the letter continues. "Creating arbitrary trade restrictions could weaken consumer confidence and have far reaching effects on this sector of our economy." Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber-using businesses, including home builders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and workers in industries such as wood pallet manufacturers, window frame and bed makers. More than 6 million workers are associated with the consumers of lumber and outnumber lumber-producing workers by 25 to 1 in the United States. "If Commerce sees this as a jobs protection issue, it clearly has to look at the jobs associated with the consumers of lumber which is significantly greater throughout all 50 states," Petniunas said.

08/10/2001
G-8 Leaders Ignore Real Problems
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Press Release

G-8 Leaders Ignore Real Problems

Copley News Service, 07/24/2001 While the leaders of the major industrial countries, the so-called G-8 nations, fiddled in Genoa, Italy, the world economy was going into a deep freeze. Global trade is shrinking. A deflating dollar is squeezing international economic activity and putting currencies around the world at risk. The IMF continues to force poisonous tax increases and austerity measures down the throats of floundering economies like Argentina.

07/24/2001
More Than 100 Senate, House Members Urge Bush to Protect Consumer Interests
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More Than 100 Senate, House Members Urge Bush to Protect Consumer Interests

Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Congress jointly sent a letter today to President George W. Bush, with House and Senate resolutions signed by more than 100 members, urging him to assure that the Administration will protect the interests of consumers and workers from potentially onerous duties being requested by U.S. lumber producers seeking to limit the amount of lumber imported from Canada. The letter applauded the Administration for letting the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) expire on March 31. That five-year agreement set quotas limiting the amount of lumber allowed into the U.S. from Canada. Shortly after it expired, the domestic lumber producers filed requests to the Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission asking for countervailing duty and antidumping tariffs that, if imposed, could amount to a 78 percent tax on consumers on every piece of Canadian lumber used in U.S. homebuilding and remodeling. "It is essential that these cases be handled in a fair and transparent manner, with the interests of U.S. homebuyers and lumber users given due consideration as those of the other parties," the letter urged. "We are concerned with the potential damage such duties would impose on our economy," the letter said. "They could raise the cost of a typical new home anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. U.S. Census Bureau data have shown that a price hike of such magnitude could drive nearly 1.2 million households out of the housing market each year, depriving them of the American dream of home ownership." The letter, signed by a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives led by Senators Don Nickles (R-OK) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the original co-sponsors of the two resolutions, S. Con. Res. 4 and H. Con. Res. 45, which were included with the letter. The resolutions supported the March ending of the SLA, and urges that there not be any new trade restraints on lumber from Canada that would continue to price families out of the housing market, mostly first time homeowners, elderly and those purchasing manufactured housing. "Clearly, the economic health of this nation relies, in part, on a strong housing market, the letter continues. "Creating arbitrary trade restrictions could weaken consumer confidence and have far reaching effects on this sector of our economy." "President Bush has made strong statements supporting the important economic benefits that come from free trade and open markets, and has spoken equally strongly about the need for more affordable housing," said Susan Petniunas, coordinator of the alliance of American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH). "Imposing such taxes on softwood lumber is totally counter to those positions. We are optimistic that American consumer interests, when fairly considered, can prevail." Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber-using businesses, including home builders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and workers in industries such as wood pallet manufacturers, window frame and bed makers. Workers associated with the consumers of lumber outnumber lumber-producing workers by 25 to 1 in the United States. The ACAH is an alliance of 15-organizations, representing approximately 95 percent of softwood lumber use in the U.S. ACAH members include CHEP USA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, 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.

07/19/2001
. Consumer Reps Meet with U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Celucci, Trade Minister Pettigrew, MPs, Urging No New Lumber Trade …
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. Consumer Reps Meet with U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Celucci, Trade Minister Pettigrew, MPs, Urging No New Lumber Trade …

Several representatives of U.S. consumer interests are in Ottawa today to meet with the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Celucci, Canadian trade officials including Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, and Parliamentary leaders, urging that Canada resist negotiating a new trade restraint on softwood lumber exports to the U.S. The delegation represents the 15-member alliance, American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH). The delegation emphasized U.S. consumer support for moving the two countries to free trade in lumber and said that there are more than 100 members of the U.S. Congress who are expressing their support for U.S. consumer interests instead of the protectionist interests of the U.S. industry. Some U.S. forestry companies have filed petitions asking for anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Canadian exports of up to 78 percent. These petitions are under review with preliminary decisions expected by the end of the month. "It is important for Canadians to know that U.S. consumer groups and over 100 members of the Senate and House of Representatives oppose protectionist duties, taxes or quotas on lumber," said Bobby Rayburn, a homebuilder from Jackson, Miss., and vice president/secretary of the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) that has 203,000 member firms throughout the U.S. "The trade restraints over the past 20 years have caused major harm to U.S. consumers, especially young and minority households struggling to purchase their first home." Barry Rutenberg, who chairs the NAHB Materials Task Force, and operates his construction company in Florida, also participated in the meetings.

07/18/2001
Consumer Alliance Urges Congress to Support Affordable Homes, Kill Proposed Hidden Lumber Taxes
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Consumer Alliance Urges Congress to Support Affordable Homes, Kill Proposed Hidden Lumber Taxes

A consumer alliance representing 95 percent of all of the lumber use and consumption in the U.S., today appealed to members of Congress to block support for a house bill introduced recently that would force a hidden tax on all softwood lumber purchased in the U.S. that comes from Canada. The bill, H. R. 2181, would impose mandatory trade restraints in the form of quotas and tariff surcharges on all shipments of lumber from Canada into the U.S., similar to the Softwood Lumber Agreement that expired March 31. This amounts to an additional consumer tax on all softwood lumber used in home construction or remodeling, according to the American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), in a letter to all members of the House of Representatives. The alliance said that this proposed protectionist legislation only continues to hurt consumers, and will further reduce the level of affordable homes across America. "The U.S. producers want to protect their markets and keep prices of softwood lumber artificially high by having the government impose a hidden tax on every purchase of lumber made in the U.S.," said Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for the ACAH, an alliance of 15 leading consumer and lumber user member organizations. "This proposed legislation is the most recent attack by lumber producers on consumers. After the expiration of the five-year quota agreement limiting softwood imports from Canada, the U.S. producers filed countervailing duty and antidumping petitions that would impose a tax of up to 78 percent on all softwood lumber imported into the U.S. "Unfortunately, those proposed duties would add up to $4,000 to the cost of a new home, and, according to calculations used by the U.S. Census Bureau, would knock 1.2 million families out of the housing market -- they could not qualify for mortgages," Petniunas said. "This would dramatically impact first time homebuyers and buyers of manufactured housing, and be counter to the objective of building more affordable housing across our country." H.R. 2181 was introduced by representatives, most of whom come from lumber producing states. "This parochial, protectionist viewpoint does not take into consideration that the jobs in homebuilding, selling and working with lumber, and downstream users of lumber such as window and bed frame manufacturers, outnumber the jobs in producing lumber in the U.S. by 25 to 1," Petniunas said. "It is time that the consumer gets represented, and that affordable housing becomes a priority." Petniunas also pointed out that "a stick is not a stick. Southern Yellow Pine produced in the south is not a substitute in housing construction for Canadian Spruce Pine Fir. These two species are not interchangeable. They do not compete. Both have their own uses in home construction, and homebuyers and remodelers should not be penalized by artificial trade barriers such as those proposed in H.R. 2181." She also said that trying to roll back imports to levels at the end of 1995, as proposed in the bill, "fails to take into consideration the growth in U.S. demand for softwood lumber, the growth in the housing market where most of it is used, and the reduction in availability of such lumber in the U.S." The ACAH is an alliance of 15-organizations, representing approximately 95 percent of softwood lumber use in the U.S. ACAH members include CHEP USA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, 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.

06/28/2001

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