OFFICIALS SEEK NEW TRADE AGREEMENT WITH CANADA
"MONTGOMERY, Ala." An anticipated increase in Canadian lumber imports may have created the weakness in U.S. lumber and sawtimber markets, despite the housing strength in America.
U.S. producers expect the trend to increase when the current softwood agreement between Canada and the U.S. expires March 31.
Members of Alabama's Congressional delegation have encouraged President Bush to begin active trade negotiations with the Canadian Government to complete a new U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement.
"I am fully supportive of efforts to protect our softwood producers in light of the expiration of the U.S-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement on March 31st," said U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, R-Alabama. "I have signed two letters to President Bush, one in February and another again this month, calling on his Administration to vigorously address the Canadian softwood lumber issue."
Everett, who chairs the House Ag Subcommittee on Speciality Crops and Foreign Trade, said he joined with the rest of the Alabama Congressional Delegation and fellow House Agriculture Committee lawmakers in asking the Bush Administration to seek a new agreement protecting the U.S. timber industry from foreign government-subsidized lumber imports.
"In the absence of a new softwood lumber agreement, our domestic companies will have no immediate remedy to protect them from subsidized Canadian lumber," Everett said.
"Such a situation will force our lumber producers to sell below cost in order to compete or to simply go out of business. The potential damage to the U.S. economy cannot be overstated. The livelihoods of over four million U.S. citizens, the survival of nearly 20,000 logging facilities, sawmills, planning mills, and the jobs of over 700,000 timber employees are at stake. I am hopeful that the Bush White House will work with lawmakers to address this issue in the coming weeks."
U.S. forest landowners face formidable competition from Canada's provincial treasuries. In Canada, 95 percent of the timberland is owned by the government, and timber sales are administered through the provincial governments.
Because the Canadian government's goal for its land holdings is full employment of its citizens, they allocate the timber to manufacturers at half to one-fourth of the price it would bring in the U.S.'s competitive timber market.