On March 16, Georgia Forestry Association President and CEO Andres Villegas along with several Association members participated in a video shoot with the U.S. Lumber Coalition as a part of an advocacy campaign to educate Congress on the importance of fair trade for softwood lumber.
On Oct. 12, 2015, the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement between Canada and the U.S. expired. The agreement was intended to reduce the competitive imbalances caused by subsidies growing out of Canadian provincial government control of most of the fiber supply used to produce softwood lumber in Canada and to minimize the harmful effects of unfairly subsidized imports in the U.S. lumber market.
Although a new agreement would provide stability and predictability to industries and consumers on both sides of the border, the Canadian government has so far been unwilling to enter into negotiations on a new trade agreement. As part of the original 2006 agreement, members of the U.S. Lumber Coalition committed not to file petitions under the U.S. trade laws for one year after the agreement expired.
Zoltan van Heyningen, executive director of the U.S. Lumber Coalition, hopes that their advocacy efforts in Congress during the year-long stay will assist in bringing Canada to the negotiation table by reminding members of Congress of the importance of working forests and the softwood lumber industry to local communities.
“The U.S. and Canadian forestry management systems are very different, and those differences have to be managed when Canadian lumber products cross the border and enter the U.S. market,” van Heyningen explained. “Managing those differences – hopefully through an agreement that works, or through trade cases if we are forced into them – are critical to providing jobs and opportunities in so many communities that really need them.”
In Georgia, softwood lumber is very important to the state’s economy, and it is critical to many Georgia communities. The lumber and wood preservation sector of the industry (not including pulp and paper or engineered woods), provides more than $1.3 billion in economic output, 5,242 jobs and $267 million in wages and salaries. Not to mention, the countless benefits to the state’s clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat.
According to GFA President and CEO Andres Villegas, that is an important story to tell.
“It is critical that we explain the economic, environmental and societal benefits of Georgia’s working forests and forest product industries at every opportunity,” Villegas said. “Fair and equal trade is not only the right thing for forestry, it is the right thing for Georgia.”
As the Coalition works with Congress to educate them on the importance of our country’s forest products, the Georgia Forestry Association will continue to partner on advocacy efforts when appropriate. To learn more about the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement and the U.S. Lumber Coalition, visit www.uslumbercoalition.org.