This summer has been a fast-paced season in Washington, and it is hard to believe we have already made it to Congress’s traditional August Recess, the break during which Members of Congress head home to take stock of the year’s policy battles and prepare for the sprint to the end of the year. As this column goes to press, President Trump is working with Republican leaders in the House and Senate to hammer out a deal on health care reform that they hope will break the legislative logjam and allow them to move on to other priorities like tax reform and infrastructure improvement.
The less glamorous work of putting in place political appointees to lead the federal bureaucracy is moving forward, if a bit more slowly than in previous administrations due to a combination of fewer nominations and procedural delays by Senate Democrats. As President Trump and his staff continue to fill out the leadership at the Departments and Agencies that impact the imported wood industry, a critical part of IWPA’s advocacy on behalf of our members is the introducing ourselves and our industry to these new leaders.
While this is an ongoing process, it is beginning to bear fruit. We are especially pleased that our advocacy to secure common-sense reforms to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products regulation resulted in EPA taking steps both to provide for a delay in the regulation’s effective dates and also to allow for voluntary early labeling of compliant products. These changes are the direct result of steps IWPA and allied associations for the U.S. kitchen cabinet, home furnishings, recreational vehicle and retail industries.
IWPA staff has also been in close contact with Administration officials from the Department of Commerce, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and Small Business Administration as policymakers begin to formulate the negotiating positions that will be the basis of modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement and our nation’s other trade agreements. While many Members of Congress continue to believe in free trade, it is critical that they understand free trade is not only beneficial for its own sake, but is critical to keeping U.S. manufacturers globally competitive. If U.S. manufacturers don’t have access to the highest quality inputs at competitive prices, it is inevitable that they will lose market share to foreign competitors that do. This avoidable situation could be exacerbated if the U.S. were to impose tariffs, like those that are currently being considered on certain foreign steel products, in a manner that leads to a global trade war. This situation is avoidable, but only if policymakers understand that business leaders in their communities are counting on them to support thoughtful policies.
As policymakers return from the August Recess, we at IWPA are prepared to hit the ground running. From September 11-13, we will be hosting our fall Member Meeting and Washington Briefing in Alexandria, Virginia. This event will give IWPA Members the opportunity to hear from Trump Administration officials about several critical topics such as the renegotiation of NAFTA and other trade agreements, the EPA formaldehyde regulation, and trade in timber species regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Attendees will also travel to Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress and staff to share information about their companies and the jobs they provide in their districts. We hope you will join us!
We are also excited to have announced a new date for IWPA’s Wood Trade Compliance Training and Due Diligence Tools course, which will take place August 30th in South Bend, Indiana. If you haven’t had an opportunity to join us for this valuable course, please visit our website at www.IWPAwood.org for more details.