Washington, DC Noting that protectionist measures represent a new hidden tax on American home buyers and consumers, and represent a trade policy that would hinder housing affordability, the nation's home builders have called on Congress to support free lumber trade between the U.S. and Canada.
"Lumber trade barriers will drive up the cost of housing and all kinds of wood products for millions of consumers and workers in lumber-dependent industries. This action threatens to delay or impede the nation's economic recovery," Bobby Rayburn, v.p. and treasurer of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), told the Senate Finance Committee.
The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, a group of U.S. lumber producers, last year petitioned the Commerce Dept. to impose tariffs on Canadian lumber imports to shield domestic logging and sawmill workers from having to compete with their Canadian counterparts. The agency responded by slapping preliminary countervailing and anti-dumping duties totaling 32% on lumber shipments into the U.S.
A final decision by the Commerce Dept. is expected this spring.
"Home building and remodeling account for two-thirds of lumber consumption in the U.S., and lumber accounts for a larger share of the cost of a home than any of the other materials used by home builders," Rayburn said.
"Even a small price increase resulting from lumber tariffs is enough to knock thousands of potential first-time home buyers out of the market," he added. "And, because there are not enough trees available to produce lumber for home building in the U.S., Canadian lumber imports are absolutely vital for the construction of affordable new homes."
With more than 100 members of the House and Senate on record as sponsoring a congressional resolution calling for free trade in lumber between the U.S. and Canada, Rayburn said that it is time for U.S. trade laws "to give priority to ordinary citizens."
"U.S. trade laws have given little consideration to the interests of consumers," he said. "This bias has limited the ability of American consumers to receive products and services of the highest quality at the lowest cost, and of U.S. businesses to provide jobs and increase production," he testified.