FOREST PRODUCTS TRADE POLICY HIGHLIGHTS - SEPTEMBER 1999
BEC and JAS Committees to Meet
The Building Experts Committee (BEC) and the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) Technical Committee are scheduled to meet in Tokyo, Japan, November 15-16, 1999. These 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. Discussions at the upcoming BEC and JAS meeting are expected to focus on recent and planned changes in Japan=s Building Standard Law to make it performance-based and the JAS Law to allow foreign organizations to become Registered Grading Organizations and/or Registered Certification Organizations, respectively.
USTR/CEQ Preparing Assessment of Forest Products ATL Initiative
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) have announced (Federal Register, June 25, 1999) that they are undertaking an analysis of the economic and environmental effects of the Accelerated Tariff Liberalization (ATL) Initiative presently under consideration in the WTO which would eliminate the remaining tariffs on forest products by no later than 2004. The ATL forest products initiative covers all of the products in Chapter 44 (wood products), 47 (pulp), 48 (paper and paperboard), and 49 (printed material) of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule as well as portions of Chapter 38 (wood chemicals), 46 (rattan), and 94 (wooden furniture and prefabricated buildings). The analysis will focus on the effects of the Initiative on the United States, but it will also address broader global implications of the Initiative. No time frame has been provided on when the study might be completed, but, reportedly, USTR and CEQ are looking at late September.
Philippines Strengthens CVD and AD Trade Laws
On August 12, 1999, Philippines President Estrada signed into law two measures intended to strengthen protection for local industries from unfair trade practices of foreign competitors. The first measure strengthened the Philippines countervailing duty law; the second measure set out rules for the imposition of duties on imported products selling at less than their normal value, i.e., products being dumped. President Estrada is quoted as saying at the time of the signing "that we [the Philippines] believe in free trade, but we also insist on fair trade."
APHIS to Prepare EIS on Importation of Unmanufactured Solid Wood Packing Material
On July 7, 1999, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced in the Federal Register that it intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with regulations it is considering on the importation of unmanufactured solid wood packing material, and is soliciting public comment (until September 7, 1999) on the range of alternatives that should be considered and the scope of the environmental issues that should be analyzed in the EIS. APHIS identified five alternatives that it intends to consider in the EIS, ranging from no additional regulatory action to prohibiting the importation of solid wood packing material in any form from any country. The introduction of exotic plant pests, such as the Asian longhorned beetle, has been increasingly linked to the importation of solid wood packing material. On a related item, APHIS has proposed several amendments to its regulations for importing pine and fir logs, lumber, and other unmanufactured wood articles from Mexico (Federal Register, June 11, 1999).
APEC Ministers Reaffirm Importance of ATL Initiative
APEC Ministers responsible for trade met in Auckland, New Zealand, June 29-30, 1999. Discussions over the two-day meeting focused on three primary areas: (1) expanding opportunities for doing business throughout the region; strengthening (domestic) markets; and (3) broadening support for APEC. Coming out of the discussions, was a reaffirmation by Ministers of the importance of the Accelerated Tariff Liberalization Initiative (ATL), particularly in providing impetus to the wider negotiation on industrial tariffs in the upcoming WTO round. (Forest products is one of eight sectors under the ATL Initiative. Tariffs on wood products would be eliminated by 2004 under the Initiative.) Ministers instructed their officials to continue to promote the initiative, endeavoring to conclude an agreement on the Initiative in the WTO in 1999.
Mexico Considering Limitations on Entry Points for Plywood
The Customs Administration of Mexico has notified U.S. Customs that it is considering limiting imports of plywood to nine customs offices in Mexico because of continuing problems with valuations of plywood shipments. The nine customs offices are Ciudad Juarez, Mexico City, Nuevo Laredo, Manzanillo, Tijuana, Mexicali, Progreso, Ciudad Hidalgo, and Veracruz. According to the Customs Administration, 89 percent of the plywood entering Mexico enters through these offices. No effective date has been announced on when the new requirements would take effect. This action follows last year's announcement that plywood (as well as number of other products) would be subject to estimated import prices and importers would be required to post a bond with the Secretariat of Finance (Hacienda) if invoice prices were below estimated import prices.
Australia Initiates Import Risk Analyses of Coniferous Logs, Lumber and Wood Packing Material
On August 24, 1999, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) informed stakeholders that it had initiated import risk analyses of coniferous logs and sawn timber from North America and wood packing material from Asia. AQIS estimates that the IRA processes for these commodities will take approximately 15 months from commencement to completion. AQIS will accept written comments on the type of process to be followed until close of business September 23, 1999. The August 24 announcement comes on the heels of an earlier announcement that AQIS would be inspecting every shipment of Douglas-fir, Hemlock, and Western Red Cedar lumber over the next 6-12 months.
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