Even though the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) today voted to allow countervailing duty and antidumping petitions on Canadian softwood lumber imports into the U.S. to move forward, the concerns of millions of American consumers and workers must be the primary concern as the U.S. government deals with antidumping and countervailing duty issues in the coming months, said the American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), a 15-member alliance representing consumer groups, home builders and lumber dealers.
"We are confident that in the long run the concerns of American consumers and more than 6 million U.S. workers in the homebuilding and related sectors will be considered," said Susan Petniunas, ACAH spokesperson. "If they are fairly evaluated, any attempts to impose future trade restraints on Canadian softwood lumber will end, and there will be free trade between our two countries for these products. Today's decision to continue the investigations is unfortunate."
Two days after the U.S./Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) expired on March 31, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm representing some U.S. lumber producers, filed countervailing duty and antidumping petitions. If the orders are imposed, they would result in a hidden tax on lumber amounting to up to 78 percent.
Today's preliminary action by the ITC allows the investigations to move forward and receive further consideration by the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission (in the final phase of the Commission's injury investigation).
"U.S. trade law sets a very low threshold for cases to move on to the next phase of consideration. While we are disappointed with the outcome, it was not unanticipated," Petniunas said. "We believe that it was a wrong decision, however."
"The expiration of the SLA was a tremendous boost to the interests of American consumers and workers," said Petniunas. "It's essential that those interests are fairly evaluated and receive due consideration as this case moves forward."
If orders are imposed, they could raise the cost of a typical new home by $2,000-$4,000, according to the ACAH. U. S. Census Bureau calculations indicate that an increase of this magnitude could drive nearly 1.2 million households out of the housing market each year.
"Such action would have the most severe impact on the young, the elderly, and the less-wealthy," said Petniunas. "These people are likely to be deprived of the American dream of home ownership if these petitions are upheld."
ACAH also explained that the investigations could impact thousands of American jobs.
"U.S. workers who use softwood lumber in their employment outnumber those in the United States who supply lumber by 25 to 1," Petniunas said. "Placing a duty or tax on softwood lumber coming into the United States will negatively impact these workers and their families."
In addition to the damage such results would have on individuals, enactment is likely to harm the national economy.
"Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee that slowing economic growth could spawn protectionist measures in the form of countervailing and antidumping suits that are 'unwise and surely self-defeating,'" said Petniunas.
"The ITC in its final ruling and the Commerce Department will serve the interests of U.S. consumers, workers, and the national economy by rejecting the protectionist arguments in these petitions," Petniunas predicted.
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.