Forest ProductsTrade Highlights
Wood Products Not Included on Beef Hormone Retaliation List
Contrary to earlier indications, wood products were not included on the preliminary list of products, released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on March 22, which would be subject to prohibitive tariffs if the European Union (EU) fails to comply with the 1997 ruling of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body and a subsequent WTO mandated deadline of May 13, 1999, by the WTO, for ending the ban on imports of U.S. beef from animals treated with scientifically-proven safe hormones. The EU has said that any change in its import requirements will have to be based on the outcome of scientific risk assessments which are currently underway. (In early 1998, the EU indicated that it would take up to four years to conduct the necessary risk assessments and to make the changes in its requirements to reflect the results of the risk assessments.) Consequently, the EU has suggested that it might be willing to compensate the U.S. pending completion of the risk assessments, etc.
New Zealand Industry Plans International Marketing Organization
New Zealand industry plans to invest upward of NZ $15 (US $8.1) million into a new marketing ventured called Wood New Zealand (WNZ). The purpose of the new organization is to promote New Zealand wood in international markets by establishing an overseas presence. WNZ plans to open an office in Japan in 1999, with additional ones to follow in the United States, Southeast Asia, China and Korea. The overseas offices will provide members with market research, market intelligence, technical support and trade leads.
Vietnam Waives Tariff Surcharge on U.S. Goods
On February 13, 1999, the Government of Vietnam informed the United States that it was waiving the 50 percent tariff surcharge that took effect on January 1, 1999. The surcharge resulted from a change in Vietnam's tariff schedule and the rate applicable to the United States. Under the change, approved by the National Assembly in May 1998, and effective January 1, 1999, U.S. goods were (prior to the waiver) no longer eligible for preferential tariff treatment, resulting in a surcharge. The waiver is good until December 31, 1999.
Legislation Submitted to Diet to Amend JAS Law
Legislation has been to submitted to the Japanese Diet which would amend the JAS Law to allow foreign corporations to function as Registered Grading Organizations (RGO) and Registered Certification Organizations. Manufacturers would also be allowed to grade their own products if they are "permitted plants" under a Registered Certification Organization. Currently, only RGOs are allowed to grade a product and foreign corporations cannot function as RGOs. The JAS system will also be subject to periodic reviews in the future.
Philippines Raises Tariff on Kraft Paper
Executive Order 63, dated January 15, 1999, raised the tariff on imports of kraft paper into the Philippines from 10 percent to 15 percent. The recent tariff increase is the latest in a series of tariff increases that have come in response to increasing domestic pressure on the Philippine Government to scale back its tariff liberalization program, initiated in 1994. U.S. exporters have also been reporting increasing problems with the Philippines' customs valuation method (average export value) and preshipment inspection system. Preshipment inspections and export value determinations at point of origin for the Philippine Government are done by the Swiss-based inspection services company, Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS).
ATL Initiative Moves Forward
At the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in November 1998, Trade Ministers agreed to move eight "fast-track" Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalization Initiatives (EVSL), i.e., forest products, fishery products, chemicals, energy, environmental goods and services, gems and jewelry, medical equipments and scientific instruments, and toys, to the WTO with the goal of finalizing them in 1999. New Zealand, the 1999 APEC Chair, introduced a paper at the WTO on January 27, 1999, which described the APEC EVSL outcome in 1998 and the goal of accelerated tariff liberalization (ATL) through the WTO in these sectors in 1999. This was followed up by meetings in Geneva in early March that brought together the ATL Sectoral Coordinators and a range of WTO members. There was strong interest in discussing how this initiative might tie into negotiations on industrial tariffs in the context of the next round. A wide range of views were expressed on this issue. The EU noted some sensitivities in the fish sector and on plywood, but commented that liberalization should be possible on these products in the context of a comprehensive tariff liberalization exercise.
WTO Holds High-Level Symposium on Trade and Environment
The World Trade Organization held a high-level symposium on trade and environment in Geneva during March 15-16, 1999. The symposium focused on the linkages between trade and environment policies; synergies between trade liberalization, environmental protection, sustainable economic growth and sustainable development; and the interaction between the trade and environment. The United States pressed for increased transparency and openness of the WTO, as well as the establishment of a WTO mechanism to ensure that the environmental implications of the new round are taken into account.