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President Trump’s Deferrals on Tariffs are a Lifeline for Small Businesses

Posted By Kenny MacMaster, Tuesday, May 5, 2020
In this unprecedented global pandemic, it is reassuring to see Congress and the Administration working to shore up our economy and helping employers stay open. As the leader of a small company in an industry deemed essential – supplying plywood and other wood products for U.S. manufacturers – I am thankful that I can continue to operate the business my family and I have worked so hard to build. I am doing everything in my power to move forward and ensure that my seventeen employees in Mandeville and Metairie are kept safe and can continue to be paid.

I expect Washington to work just as hard, and I am pleased to see that they are delivering. Just this week, President Trump issued an Executive Order giving the Secretary of the Treasury authority to temporarily defer certain duties for importers suffering significant financial hardship because of COVID-19.

This is much-needed relief for industries like mine, where liquidity is scarce and markets are barely functioning, if at all. In my business, construction projects are being put on hold, and families are delaying renovations and other projects due to the uncertainty about the status of their paychecks and what the future holds for the U.S. economy.

Delaying payment on the duties that companies like mine pay for goods we source around the world for U.S. manufacturers will help us stay afloat in the short-term so we can not only pay employees but do the work we need to do.

Tariffs are always controversial, and there are always supporters and detractors. I’m not interested in debating the merits of tariffs right now. As a country we are all struggling to keep our doors open. As we realize that we may be operating under the “new normal” for longer than we originally hoped, we all need to be flexible and creative in finding short term solutions that keep our economy from continuously cratering. Right now, under these conditions, tariffs on my imported products, many of which are not available in the U.S., take precious dollars from my company’s bank account. The Port of New Orleans and other ports around the country depend on the flow of goods to stay in business, this also ensures we can continue take care of the independent and union port and transportation workers involved in those operations.

To be clear, the Executive Order allowing deferral of duties doesn’t mean we let those duties vanish. I am committed to paying them, just like Americans will comply with the new Tax Day for America on July 15, 2020. And just like Americans will comply with payments on deferred mortgages and credit cards. While this will help Americans in the short run, we all know those bills will still come due and this is the same relief we should be offering the companies that are out there trying to pay these American’s salaries.

One additional way Congress and the Administration can help small businesses is to expand the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) under the CARES Act to include trade associations that are essential to small businesses like mine. Like many other industries, we rely on our trade association, the International Wood Products Association, to provide us with critical resources including market trends and the latest developments in Washington, like the PPP. IWPA also coordinates our annual convention, which unfortunately had to be canceled and transitioned to a virtual event. Like most other trade associations that also canceled their respective annual events, this came at a tremendous financial loss. Congress should include trade associations in future enhancements of the PPP to ensure that small businesses across the country can get the resources that they need.

We are an employer of choice in our community and offer good pay and benefits. For more than three decades, Argo Fine Imports has proudly provided good jobs while helping the New Orleans area and the broader United States grow as we supply products for the recreation vehicle industry as well as other manufacturers around the country. We have survived the economic setbacks of 9/11, the 2008 recession and are committed to weather this current storm.

The quick response in stimulus measures from the White House and Congress shows that we can still take extraordinary steps when we need to as Americans, and this virus is a challenge like we’ve never seen before. This will require American innovation to overcome. I think we’re up to the challenge.

Kenny MacMaster is Vice President/Partner of Argo Fine Imports in MandevilleIn this unprecedented global pandemic, it is reassuring to see Congress and the Administration working to shore up our economy and helping employers stay open. As the leader of a small company in an industry deemed essential – supplying plywood and other wood products for U.S. manufacturers – I am thankful that I can continue to operate the business my family and I have worked so hard to build. I am doing everything in my power to keep my lights on and ensure that my seventeen employees in Mandeville and Metairie are kept safe and can continue to be paid.

I expect Washington to work just as hard, and I am pleased to see that they are delivering. Just this week, President Trump issued an Executive Order giving the Secretary of the Treasury authority to temporarily defer certain duties for importers suffering significant financial hardship because of COVID-19.

This is much-needed relief for industries like mine, where liquidity is scarce and markets are barely functioning, if at all. In my business, construction projects are being put on hold, and families are delaying renovations and other projects due to the uncertainty about the status of their paychecks and what the future holds for the U.S. economy.

Delaying payment on the duties that companies like mine pay for goods we source around the world for U.S. manufacturers will help us stay afloat in the short-term so we can not only pay employees but do the work we need to do.

Tariffs are always controversial, and there are always supporters and detractors. I’m not interested in debating the merits of tariffs right now. As a country we are all struggling to keep our doors open. As we realize that we may be operating under the “new normal” for longer than we originally hoped, we all need to be flexible and creative in finding short term solutions that keep our economy from continuously cratering. Right now, under these conditions, tariffs on my imported products, many of which are not available in the U.S., take precious dollars from my company’s bank account. The Port of New Orleans and other ports around the country depend on the flow of goods to stay in business, this also ensures we can continue take care of the independent and union port and transportation workers involved in those operations.

To be clear, the Executive Order allowing deferral of duties doesn’t mean we let those duties vanish. I am committed to paying them, just like Americans will comply with the new Tax Day for America on July 15, 2020. And just like Americans will comply with payments on deferred mortgages and credit cards. While this will help Americans in the short run, we all know those bills will still come due and this is the same relief we should be offering the companies that are out there trying to pay these American’s salaries.

One additional way Congress and the Administration can help small businesses is to expand the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) under the CARES Act to include trade associations that are essential to small businesses like mine. Like many other industries, we rely on our trade association, the International Wood Products Association, to provide us with critical resources including market trends and the latest developments in Washington, like the PPP. IWPA also coordinates our annual convention, which unfortunately had to be canceled and transitioned to a virtual event. Like most other trade associations that also canceled their respective annual events, this came at a tremendous financial loss. Congress should include trade associations in future enhancements of the PPP to ensure that small businesses across the country can get the resources that they need.

We are an employer of choice in our community and offer good pay and benefits. For more than three decades, Argo Fine Imports has proudly provided good jobs while helping the New Orleans area and the broader United States grow as we supply products for the recreation vehicle industry as well as other manufacturers around the country. We have survived the economic setbacks of 9/11, the 2008 recession and are committed to weather this current storm.

The quick response in stimulus measures from the White House and Congress shows that we can still take extraordinary steps when we need to as Americans, and this virus is a challenge like we’ve never seen before. This will require American innovation to overcome. I think we’re up to the challenge.

Kenny MacMaster is Vice President/Partner of Argo Fine Imports in Mandeville

Tags:  Duties  PPP  Tariffs 

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Staying Nimble is the Key to Success

Posted By Cindy L. Squires, Esq., Sunday, April 7, 2019
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2019
Even with a strong economy, threats to your business can be right around the corner. Being nimble is the key to success in today’s wood products market.

In March, the TSCA Title VI import certification for composite wood products came online. At press time it appears that President Trump is on the verge of a huge trade deal with China that could eliminate the additional 10% tariffs on imported wood products from that country. In late May, IWPA staff will be traveling to Colombo, Sri Lanka to advocate on behalf of our industry at the 18th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties where the assembled countries will consider proposals to further regulate the trade in species such as Ipé and the genus Cedrela.

In addition to these issues that have been years in the making, there have been recent developments that even industry insiders may not be aware of. Formaldehyde may come under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the TSCA chemical risk evaluation process. EPA is expected to release its list of 20 high priority chemicals that will be subject to risk assessment in late March. This process could eventually lead to the addition of restrictions on use of formaldehyde.

IWPA has already alerted members about another emerging issue that we have seen gaining some traction both at home and abroad is the desire to prevent or disincentivize procurement of even certified tropical timber species. The California Assembly is considering legislation that would require a deforestation-free certification for a range of agriculture products being procured for state projects. How this certification would be made and verified is not at all clear from the legislative text. A group of Scandinavian countries that came together to promote the Nordic Swan ecolabel has proposed an extensive list of timber species that would be ineligible for the label. It is troublesome that even certified legally- and sustainably-harvested wood products would be excluded from eligibility.

Meanwhile, pressure for congressional approval for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is building. IWPA has joined over 300 industry associations in a coalition to support its passage.

IWPA works with our members and groups that share our passion for beautiful and high performing wood products to advance our mission of building acceptance and demand for the sustainable products our members supply in the North American market. The support of our members allows us to be a strong voice standing up to ill-conceived proposals that would have profound impacts for our industry. Just as important is the role we play in warning members about unforeseen risks that could be looming over the horizon.

If you are not already a member of IWPA, please reach out to us to discuss how we can help ensure your company remains nimble in the face of oncoming challenges.

Tags:  Cedrela  China  EPA  Formaldehyde  Sri Lanka  Tariffs  TSCA VI  U.S.-Mexican-Canada Agreement 

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