U.S. Implements Rule on Solid Wood Packing Material From China
Effective December 17, 1998, all solid wood packing material leaving Chinese ports must be accompanied by official certification from the Chinese Government stating that the material was heat treated, fumigated or treated with preservatives before leaving China. The new requirements were deemed necessary after the discovery of the beetle in 26 locations throughout the United States (mainly in and around import warehouses containing solid wood packing material from China), ranging from sites in California to Florida to Illinois and New York. Canada has indicated that it will phase in similar requirements beginning January 5, 1999, to become effective February 5, 1999. The United Kingdom is also reportedly considering imposing similar requirements on Chinese solid wood packing material.
NAPPO Approves New Import Requirements for Solid Wood Packing Material
On November 3, 1998, the North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO) approved a new standard covering wood dunnage and packing materials, such as boxes, crating, cable spools, and drums and spacers. The new standard requires that these materials be kiln-dried or fumigated with methy bromide when imported into NAPPO countries (U.S., Canada and Mexico). (Wood-based material such as plywood and oriented strand board which have been processed using wood, glue, heat and compression are specifically exempted.) The standard also allows the use of approved (by importing country) alternative treatments or processes (e.g. treatment with a chemical preservatives) or pest management systems. NAPPO member countries have indicated that they will implement this standard on or before October 1, 2000.
ITC Initiates Investigation of Forest Products Trade
On November 9, 1998, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), following a request by the Senate Committee on Finance, initiated an investigation of competition in forest products trade, with special emphasis on trade barriers and forest practices that may distort domestic and international markets in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The investigation will be limited to forest products as contained in Chapters 44, 47, and 48 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. A public hearing in connection with the investigation has been scheduled for May 26, 1999, in Washington, D.C.
U.S. & Japan Meet to Discuss Deregulation
A Vice Ministerial meeting was held in Washington, D.C. on November 6 to review and advance work underway under the U.S.-Japan Enhanced Initiative on Deregulation and Competition Policy. Discussions covered a broad range of deregulation issues and came on the heels of the U.S.' October 7 deregulation submission to Japan. The U.S.' submission covered telecommunications, housing, financial services, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, energy, and automotive sectors, as well as structural issues such as distribution, competition policy, and transparency. Many of the proposals contained in the 52-page submission built upon those announced by the United States and Japan in May 1998, in Birmingham, England. Others introduced significant new elements to the deregulation agenda. The United States believes that its submission should form the basis for agreement between the two governments by the time of the G-8 Summit in June1999, in Cologne, Germany.
Kyrgyz Republic to Join WTO
On December 20, 1998, the Kyrgyz Republic will become the 133rd member of the World Trade Organization.
WTO to Hold High-Level Meeting on Trade & Environment
The World Trade Organization (WTO) will hold a high-level meeting on trade and environment on March 15-16, 1999, in Geneva involving senior officials from both trade and environment ministries, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations, the business community, relevant international organizations, and invited speakers from academia. The meeting will be chaired by WTO Director-General Ruggiero. The meeting on trade and environment will be followed by a high-level meeting on trade and development on March 17-18, 1999, and will also include a diverse group of participants.
U.S. & EU Agree on Joint Action Plan for TEP Initiative
On November 2, 1998, U.S. and EU negotiators agreed upon a joint action plan to implement the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP), launched at the U.S.-EU Summit in London in May 1998. The action plan outlines activities to be pursued bilaterally in key areas, including agriculture, government procurement, technical barriers to trade, environmental issues, and competition policy, with most actions targeted for completion by the end of 1999. In the environment area, the U.S. and EU will establish an Environment Group to discuss and negotiate a joint environment work plan focusing on the interface between trade and the environment. The U.S. and EU also agreed to work together to further liberalize trade under the WTO. The joint action plan was subsequently approved by the EU's General Affairs Council on November 9, 1998.
Trilateral Technical Committees Meet in Tokyo
The Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) Technical Committee and the Building Experts Committee (BEC) met in Tokyo, Japan, December 11-12, 1998. The committees took up a wide-range of issues relating to the JAS system and Japan's Building Standard Law. A report prepared by a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries advisory committee on needed revisions to the JAS system to reflect changes in consumer preferences, greater internationalization, deregulation, and private sector capabilities was presented. Included among proposed JAS changes was a recommendation to grant more authority to Foreign Testing Organizations (FTO). There are currently 9 FTOs, including 5 in the United States. The majority of the second day was spent discussing forthcoming changes in the Building Standard Law of Japan, including a change which will allow the construction of three-story, multi-family, wood-frame construction in urban areas. The two committees were originally set up under the terms of the 1990 U.S.-Japan Wood Products Agreement to oversee the implementation of the standards-related portions of the agreement, and are comprised of representatives from government, industry and academia from the United States, Japan, and Canada. Michael Hicks, FAS/FFPD, headed the U.S. delegation made up of government and U.S. industry expert representatives.
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