The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today called on the U.S. government to avoid using the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPP) as a means of renegotiating the U.S.-Canadian softwood lumber agreement prior to its 2015 expiration date.
The U.S. is currently in talks with Canada regarding its participation in ongoing negotiations of a TPP trade pact with several other nations. However, NAHB strongly believes that the softwood lumber accord between the U.S. and Canada should not be part of the TPP trade pact negotiations. It would be highly inappropriate for discussions on the U.S.-Canada softwood lumber agreement to include any nations other than the U.S. and Canada.
Testifying before the office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington, D.C., NAHB CEO Jerry Howard said that addressing softwood lumber issues in the TPP negotiations would undermine the TPP talks and set a dangerous precedent.
"Reopening the U.S.-Canada softwood lumber agreement would jeopardize the successful negotiation of a TPP trade agreement, bogging down the talks with a century old dispute between the United States and Canada on softwood lumber that has yet to achieve a final resolution," said Howard. "Softwood lumber issues are too important to get lost in the context of a multinational trade negotiation and must be addressed by the U.S. and Canada in a bilateral forum."
NAHB supports government policies that encourage removal of trade barriers for imported materials and products, Howard added, noting that this allows home builders to provide safe, decent and affordable housing at competitive prices.
With the U.S. housing sector now showing signs of revival in scores of markets across the nation, Howard said the presence of artificial trade barriers on softwood lumber and other products and materials that go into home building can have significant economic consequences. He also noted that lumber is the most important and also the most costly material used in home building.
"Housing creates jobs, increases the demand for goods and services within a particular community and generates revenues for local governments to provide such essential services as schools, police protection and firefighter assistance," said Howard. "Any unnecessary trade restraints that result in price hikes or shortages would harm housing affordability and have a negative effect on the nation's economy."