Michaud Pushes for Enforcement as Condition of Lumber Agreement Extension

Oct 19, 2011 Issues: Global Trade

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Mike Michaud joined with his fellow co-chairs of the House Lumber Trade Caucus to send a letter to United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk urging him to call for strong, timely, and effective enforcement mechanisms as a condition for supporting an extension of the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA). The bipartisan letter, led by Michaud, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), was signed by 23 members of Congress.

“We commend you for the trade enforcement steps that you have taken under the SLA, but urge you to ensure that any future violations by Canada are addressed expeditiously.  Our forestry industry and their workers and communities deserve nothing less,” wrote the lawmakers. “As the economic recovery remains tepid, the lumber market outlook is bleak. History tells us that Canada will continue to push the envelope on circumventing the Agreement, and the need for full and effective U.S. enforcement will continue to be absolutely critical.”

The full text of the letter sent today can be found below.

The Honorable Ron Kirk
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Kirk,

We are writing to express our conditional support for extending the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA).  Our condition is premised on the simple principle that there exists a direct linkage between trade agreement enforcement and saving U.S. jobs – and as such, strong, timely, and effective enforcement of our trade agreements is essential.  We commend you for the trade enforcement steps that you have taken under the SLA, but urge you to ensure that any future violations by Canada are addressed expeditiously.  Our forestry industry and their workers and communities deserve nothing less.

The current arbitration case against British Columbia (BC) timber pricing violations is of utmost importance to the future of the U.S. lumber manufacturing industry.  The trade agreement violations are so blatant that questions have been raised even within Canada about the BC government stumpage practices.  It is unfortunate that Canada was able to forestall the initiation of the SLA dispute resolution process for over two years – a time during which U.S industry and workers suffered significant harm as a result of BC’s timber pricing SLA violation.  

We believe that the Softwood Lumber Agreement, on balance, has been beneficial to lumber producers, timberland owners, and employees across the Unites States.  The detrimental effects of Canada’s violations of certain key terms of the Agreement, however, have been particularly injurious because they occurred in ruinous lumber market conditions -- the very conditions for which the Agreement was designed to be the most effective at providing an offset to Canada’s unfair lumber trade practices.  

As the economic recovery remains tepid, the lumber market outlook is bleak.  History tells us that Canada will continue to push the envelope on circumventing the Agreement, and the need for full and effective U.S. enforcement will continue to be absolutely critical.   

Our support for extending the Agreement for an additional two years hinges on your iron clad commitment that any Canadian violations will be addressed in a timely and effective manner.  If Canada circumvents the Agreement terms, the United States must aggressively enforce its rights under the Agreement so that the domestic industry is not further harmed by any delays while its Canadian counterpart continues to reap the benefits of unfair government subsidies – Canadian delaying tactics must be denied.  Timely and strong responses to any Canadian violations are essential to U.S. companies, workers, and other sectors which depend on a healthy forestry industry.

We look forward to continue working closely with your office to ensure that this agreement is administered and enforced effectively by the United States to establish fair competitive conditions for American sawmills, mill workers and family timberland owners.

Sincerely,

Michael Michaud (D-ME)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Walter Jones (R-NC)
Jo Bonner (R-AL)
Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
Greg Walden (R-OR)
Doc Hastings (R-WA)
Mike Ross (D-AR)
Dennis Rehberg (R-MT)
Tim Holden (D-PA)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Steve Southerland (R-FL)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Charles Bass (R-NH)
John Barrow (D-GA)
Sanford Bishop (D-GA)
Heath Shuler (D-NC)
Norm Dicks (D-WA)