U.S. Trade Rep Shows No Sense of Urgency on Lumber Trade Dispute

Filed in Capitol Hill by on March 23, 2018 7 Comments

During a March 21 hearing before the House Committee on Ways and Means on the U.S. trade policy agenda, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said there is little chance that the softwood lumber trade dispute with Canada will be resolved anytime soon.

“Right now, I would say there’s probably not much going on in terms of those negotiations,” said Lighthizer. “Are they part of NAFTA? Not as far as I am concerned. As far as I am concerned this a function of the trade laws working the way Congress designed them to work.”

“To me, it is unlikely I think, I wouldn’t put it at zero but it’s unlikely that I’m going to end up solving this issue or trying to resolve this issue,” Lighthizer added. “Right now the positions are kind of intractable.”

This answer was in a response to a question brought by Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), who said that Texas home builders are concerned how the lumber tariffs have escalated lumber prices by 40% to 60% in just the last year.

In fact, new data compiled by NAHB economists shows that the changes in lumber prices between Jan. 6, 2017 and March 16, 2018 are enough to increase the price of an average new single-family home by $6,388, and the market value of an average new multifamily housing unit by $2,430. These cost increases are in the average price paid by consumers — not just the change in cost paid by the builder.

On March 2, the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite Price hit a record $512 per thousand board feet and prices for several wood products currently stand at or near all-time highs.

Tariffs averaging just over 20% on Canadian softwood lumber exports to the U.S. are exacerbating market volatility, putting upward pressure on lumber prices and harming housing affordability. This is why NAHB believes it is absolutely vital that the U.S. resumes serious negotiations with Canada to find a just resolution.

Though the U.S. Trade Representative appears to have expressed a clear lack of urgency on this issue, NAHB strongly disagrees with this approach.

Under the U.S. trade laws, NAHB members are not considered parties who are able to participate in the trade negotiations. But NAHB stands ready to work with all stakeholders to hammer out a fair and equitable long-term solution to the trade impasse that ensures U.S. home builders have access to a reliable and affordable supply of lumber to meet the housing needs of American consumers.

On the home front, NAHB continues to work with Congress and the administration to boost domestic lumber production and our advocacy efforts have been well-received.

NAHB’s support was instrumental in ensuring House passage last year of the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. The bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) would reduce red tape that inhibits our nation’s forestry professionals from harvesting timber from federally-owned lands.

More recently, the $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by Congress this week to fund the government through the end of September will help improve forest management practices on federal lands, yielding more timber in the process. The legislation contains several forestry reform measures backed by NAHB, including many that were taken from Rep. Westerman’s legislation that would remove regulatory hurdles to forest management projects and prevent lengthy, often unnecessary delays.

NAHB continues to urge the administration and Congress to seek out a long-term solution to the ongoing lumber trade impasse that will ensure a lasting and stable supply of lumber imports into the U.S. at a competitive price. At the same time, we continue to explore all avenues to boost domestic production and increase access to foreign timber markets.

For more information, contact Alex Strong at 800-368-5242 x8279.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Raymond Luther says:

    When the government shut down the federal log supply decades ago, 80% of our manufacturing mills were dismantled. This created a great opportunity for Canada to supply a huge void in the housing market. Jumping to today this new temporary tariff in place early last year combined with logistic issues has caused a slow trickle of wood coming over the border, currently creating a demand issue, in turn pushing prices up. If we recall when there was a 12-month no tariff coo down period close to two years ago for Canadians prices were stable and low. The problem we have today is very simple: All foreign entities that are subject to tariffs will affect the flow into the U.S. and the U.S. at this time is not capable to supply the demand because we dismantled our mills decades ago, in turn we have created a high demand in a robust market causing prices to go up high and fast. I feel the only way we can reduce pricing on the building end and become competitive with foreign entities mainly Canada is open up the Federal Timber lands and build mills again, putting people to work and the government can use the timber proceeds for a worthy purpose. AND greediness must be kept in check not to sell our natural resource “The Log” off shore. All logs must be manufactured by a U.S. Mill.

  2. We have millions of acres of untapped forest products with Southern yellow pine all across the south. There used to be many sawmills across our state to produce strong, locally manufactured framing products. Many of these sawmills are gone.

    In the late 70’s and early 80s the National Forest was a great source of this lumber. It was properly managed and provided trails and roads the general public used for recreation.

    We can do this again only this time permanently!

  3. Vernon Young says:

    I primarily build apartments and absolutely agree with all these comments. We must keep in mind we cannot ramp up new mills when the existing are gorging on profits because of the shortage that has existed for years on fir. Yellow Pine prices have risen with fir yet the loggers in Texas’s are broke because the mills are only buying hardwood. We cannot supply the fir market for years to come and need to force this issue on Canadian tarrifs now with Congress before this situation becomes permanent. I am affraid the Canada market is the only way to ramp up production now .

  4. Norm Hyman says:

    Trump is only interested in big buildings, not affordable housing. He is responsible for the increased cost of Canadian lumber.

  5. Susanna says:

    The government will address the unfair trade w steel but do nothing about soft wood w Canada. We need to get this on the Presidents radar. How can we make that happen?

  6. Frank Queen Sr, says:

    I Agree with all these responses , and we need to
    Get mobilized to contact our representatives
    In Congress and the Senate.
    Fifty some years ago my grandpa and myself
    Did our own selective cutting,used horses to yard
    Out our lumber.
    All the forest fires will also have a huge affect on
    Supplies.

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