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Window Opens for Congressional Action on Trade
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January 12, 2015

Posted By Cindy Squires, Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Can you even remember a time when Congress seemed to work? Maybe when President Obama worked with Democratic majorities in Congress to push through Obamacare? Perhaps when President Clinton worked with Newt Gingrich to move towards a balanced budget? Following November’s elections we now have a situation we have not seen in Washington, D.C. since 2010, one party control of Congress. Personally, having worked on the Hill during the Bush I and Clinton administrations, I see the current situation where one party controls Congress and the other controls the White House as the most likely to avoid extremes on both sides and most conducive to bipartisan compromise.

One issue that has been a hostage to partisan gridlock is trade. Congress has not voted on a major trade bill since 2011 when Congress passed free trade pacts with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. However, IWPA is hearing that conditions are ripe for movement on an aggressive trade agenda in 2015, including sweeping deals to expand trade with the EU and twelve Pacific economies including Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.

Of particular interest to many wood products importers are the prospects for retroactive renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences program, which reduces or eliminates tariffs on certain goods from many developing countries in an effort to stimulate growth overseas while also ensuring the U.S. businesses and consumers have access to competitively priced goods. The duty savings provided by the GSP program are of critical importance to many importers of wood products, including many IWPA members. The latest indications are that GSP will be part of an early package of bills meant to pave the way for the larger European and Pacific trade deals later in 2015.

We also expect to see movement on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products and a new CARB amended rule. IWPA has been actively lobbying on this issue and pressed for consistency among the rules. Every difference between the CARB program and the new EPA rule will cost money, increase the likelihood of errors and confusion, and thus hurt consumers. Thankfully, Congress has directed EPA to replicate CARB’s regulations and make sure it is “consistent with the California regulations for laminated products.” This guidance will be critical in ensuring that the national standard is consistent with the CARB rule. Stay tuned to hear more about the EPA and CARB final rules in the coming months. You will need to move quickly to make sure your supply chain is in compliance.

Be sure to make plans now to join us at our 2015 World of Wood Annual Convention March 18-20 in Las Vegas. We have planned an exciting lineup of speakers and presenters that will provide you with the latest tips and strategies to grow your business along with unrivaled networking opportunities. Please take a moment to visit our website at www.IWPAwood.org to learn more and register today!

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