Consumers File Amicus Brief With NAFTA Opposing Canadian Softwood Lumber Duties

A friend-of-the-court brief was filed

yesterday on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders and the

National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association urging a North

American Free Trade Agreement bi-national panel to reject 27 percent duties

resulting from a U.S. International Trade Commissions (ITC) finding of “threat

of material injury” to U.S. lumber producers from Canadian softwood lumber


Last May, the ITC found that a potential threat existed, even though it

found no evidence of an actual injury to U.S. industry. It approved

27 percent Commerce Department duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports,

which went into effect later that month.

Yesterday’s brief, filed on behalf of two members of the American

Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), an 18 member Alliance of U.S. lumber

consumers and free trade advocates who comprise more than 95 percent of

domestic and imported lumber consumption, is the only way consumers can be

heard on this trade issue, according to an ACAH spokesperson.

“The brief represents lumber dealers, home builders and other industries

that rely on Canadian lumber — from all regions of the country —

representing the broad cross section of Americans who are being harmed by what

amounts to a 27 percent federal sales tax imposed on lumber,” said Susan

Petniunas, spokesperson for the ACAH. “It is unfortunate that trade laws do

not allow consumers direct participation on an equal basis with industry in

disputes like this. After all, consumers are the ones who end up paying the

cost in higher prices, just to benefit a few U.S. companies.”

The brief includes extensive documentation that there is little

overlapping among U.S. produced timber species and those imported from Canada,

and that Canadian softwood lumber is not an adequate substitute for U. S.

southern yellow pine in most of its uses.

Each type of lumber has distinct properties, functions and applications

that can make it a poor substitute for other species, homebuilders and lumber

dealers testified before the ITC.

Most lumber produced in the U.S. is southern yellow pine. In Canada, most

timber harvested is spruce pine fir. The U.S. relies on imported lumber to

meet about 30 percent of its needs.

“If the entire 27 percent duties are passed on to U.S. consumers, they

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,” Petniunas said.

“These potential home buyers would not able to qualify for mortgages,” she

added. “And while $1,000 may not sound like much to some people, for many

first-time homeowners and seniors seeking to reduce their housing costs in

retirement, it can make the difference between being able to buy a home or

not,” she said.

The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, led by International Paper,

Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple Inland, and southern landowners,

filed petitions alleging that they have been harmed by Canadian softwood

lumber imports and asking for countervailing and antidumping duties.

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 year, indicating

their support for free trade in lumber, and urging no new taxes or penalties

on consumers. Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber-

consuming businesses, including homebuilders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and

such industries as window and bed makers. U.S. workers for lumber-consuming

industries outnumber lumber-producing workers by 30 to 1.

ACAH members 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.