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    U.S. Efforts to Restart Discussions on Canadian Softwood Lumber Trade Welcomed by Consumers Who Remain Opposed to Any Co…

    on 1/8/03.

    Representatives of U.S. consumer
    interests welcomed efforts by the Commerce Department announced yesterday to
    seek a long-term solution to the prolonged and complex dispute with Canada
    over softwood lumber imports. American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH),
    an alliance of 18 large national organizations and companies representing more
    than 95 percent of U.S. lumber consumption, said however that it remains
    opposed to imposing any border measures -- import or export taxes or quotas --
    that only end up harming consumers.
    The Commerce Department imposed 27 percent countervailing and antidumping
    duties on lumber imports last summer, duties that consumers consider a
    federally imposed sales tax on lumber that harms homebuyers and impacts
    housing affordability in the U.S.
    The duties were imposed at the urging of a few large U.S. producers, led
    by International Paper, Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple Inland,
    and southern land owners forming the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports,
    alleging that they had been harmed by Canadian softwood lumber, based on a
    perceived threat to the industry, although no evidence of actual injury was
    "The new Commerce Department initiative, in the form of policy bulletins
    dictating forest practice changes the U.S. wants Canada to make, is certainly
    welcomed to restart discussions and seek a resolution to this issue" said
    Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for ACAH. "However, we remain opposed to any
    efforts to tax U.S. lumber consumers, including import or export taxes."
    "The U.S. requires at least a third of its lumber in the form of imports,
    and Canada is the best source for it," she said. "We should move to free and
    open markets between our two countries."
    In the policy draft, Commerce Undersecretary Grant Aldonas said he would
    seek input from lumber producers. "It is equally important that he also seek
    input from those who use lumber and consumer interests, something that ACAH
    will aggressively pursue," Petniunas said.
    Petniunas said that recent proposals by Seattle-based forest producer
    Weyerhaeuser, the British Columbia government, and the British Columbia
    forestry industry association also are each a long way from relieving the
    burden of the lumber dispute on consumers.
    "Some of these proposals call for Canada to drop or suspend its appeals of
    the U.S. countervail and antidumping duties before the World Trade
    Organization and the North America Free Trade Agreement panels," she said.
    "We believe that would be a significant error on the part of Canada. Canada
    has already won major decisions earlier this year, and we are convinced that
    if the appeals are allowed to conclude in a timely manner, Canada will win
    again. This is the best route to free trade in lumber, and we hope Canada
    will resist any temptation to stop those appeals, even if it does hold
    discussions or look at interim measures."
    She noted that the Commerce proposal clearly indicates that it is aware of
    the roles the appeal processes play in an eventual solution to the problem,
    and that the ACAH believes that one reason Commerce is pushing for a solution
    now is because it too believes it will continue to lose in the WTO and NAFTA.
    "Unfortunately, the Coalition's attempt to fix prices backfired, and
    lumber prices have dropped significantly," Petniunas added. "All they have
    succeeded in doing is creating great volatility in the market once again, and
    to continue their negative impact on housing affordability."
    "The final 27 percent countervailing and antidumping duties on finished
    lumber for framing homes and remodeling, even at lower lumber prices, may
    increase the average cost of a new home by as much as $1,000," she said.
    "Based on information from the U.S. Census Bureau, that additional $1,000
    prevents as many as 300,000 families from qualifying for home mortgages."
    Consumers have some strong support on Capitol Hill. 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 two years, indicating their support for
    free trade in lumber, and urging no new taxes or penalties on consumers.
    Industries that depend on lumber as an input and that oppose import
    restrictions include: manufacturers of value-added wood products, lumber
    dealers, manufactured and on-site home builders, and remodeling contractors
    and individuals. These industries employ more than 6.5 million workers, 25 to
    one when compared with those in the forestry industry.
    Members of ACAH 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.