Trade Commission Urged to Focus on Consumers in Taking Action Related to Duties on Canadian Softwood Lumber

American Consumers for Affordable Homes

(ACAH) today called on the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to focus

on how border taxes, quotas, price controls and other trade distorting

measures, particularly the 27 percent duties recently imposed on Canadian

lumber imports, are hurting consumers.

The ITC today held hearings on the competitiveness of the U.S. structural

building components industry, which includes structural beams, arches, trusses

and other wood products needed for home construction. In response to a

request for this assessment by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles

Grassley (R-Iowa) and the Senate Finance Committee, the ITC has surveyed home

builders, lumber dealers and other interested parties on the market for U.S.

wood for structural building components and non-wood substitutes, and its

impact on U.S. production and housing construction. The Senate request for

the study was issued under Section 332 of the Tariff Act of 1930.

In connection with the study, Senators Baucus and Grassley also directed

the ITC to examine the effect of tariffs and other border measures on the

domestic home building industry and U.S. homebuyers. The most significant of

these is the 27 percent countervailing and anti-dumping duties on Canadian

lumber imports imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department last spring

“While we believe this study can provide useful information about lumber

users, we hope that the ITC also will take into consideration the burden

placed on consumers forced to pay the 27 percent duties on Canadian lumber

imports,” said Susan Petniunas, ACAH spokesperson. “The impacts are not just

on lumber users; the current duties amount to a federally imposed sales tax on

new home construction, remodeling and other applications for lumber. It is a

tax on home buyers and home owners.”
Petniunas pointed out that even though current lumber costs have dropped,

the duties add to the instability and volatility of the housing market.

“Without trade-distorting border taxes or other interferences such as quotas,

the cost of lumber would be dictated by the free market, allowing for longer

term stability,” she added. “Removal of border taxes benefits lumber dealers,

home builders and, ultimately, consumers and the economy.”
The review is a new and separate action from the countervailing and

anti-dumping duty investigation conducted by the Department of Commerce and

the ITC earlier this year. Following the investigation, the Senate Finance

Committee will receive a report next April on the impact of imports on the

domestic users of lumber, including homebuilders, lumber dealers, and

manufactures of building components. The investigation also gives the ITC an

opportunity to assess the true impact of the 27 percent tariffs on U.S.


According to Petniunas, these duties are particularly devastating for

consumers because the U.S. cannot produce sufficient lumber to meet its needs.

Approximately one-third of its lumber for building homes must come from

imports, primarily from Canada. “The 27 percent countervailing and

anti-dumping duties imposed on finished lumber for framing homes and

remodeling, can 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

The impact on workers in the building trades and lumber-using jobs is

another important factor that the ITC should consider in its investigation.

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

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

industries as window, pallet and bed makers. “Workers associated with the

consumers of lumber outnumber lumber-producing workers by 25 to 1 in the

United States,” Petniunas said.

More than 100 members of the U.S. House and Senate have signed resolutions

or written letters to President Bush over the past year, indicating their

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


This past summer, the World Trade Organization found that the Department

of Commerce action imposing preliminary countervailing duties more than a year

ago on Canadian softwood lumber imports was contrary to U.S. obligations under

U.S. trade rules and should be overturned.

Similar WTO challenges have been made by Canada on the final

countervailing and anti-dumping duties imposed last spring. Challenges to the

U.S. tariffs are also pending before dispute panels convened under the North

American Free Trade Agreement.

ACAH is an informal alliance opposed to any border measures or quotas on

Canadian lumber imports Its members, who represent more than 95 percent of the

domestic consumption of lumber, 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.