By Erik Heilman
Director, Government Affairs
Eighty years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed the third
week in May as the first “World Trade Week” to recognize the
importance of international trade to the U.S. economy. We still mark
World Trade Week today, and the U.S. forest products industry has
benefited from the expansion of global commerce. Exports are an important part of our industry’s economic health, accounting for about 15 percent of total sales. In 2013, the industry exported $31.3 billion worth of paper, wood pulp, and wood products.
The industry also benefits greatly from indirect exports; domestic sales of paper, paperboard, and wood packaging materials that are used to package and transport goods exported by other U.S. industries. Our industry is consumer-driven – much of what we make gets used by other companies to package and ship their products. The more American oranges, cereal, beer, and frozen french fries are sold overseas, the more we benefit. And with over 95 percent of the world’s population living outside of the U.S., international trade and trade agreements that remove barriers to trade are critical to a strong consumer-driven manufacturing industry like ours. That’s what trade agreements give us: they help open new markets and break down foreign trade barriers.
Currently, the U.S. is pushing to finalize trade agreements with a group of Asia-Pacific nations and with the European Union. Successful conclusion of these negotiations – as well as congressional passage of “trade promotion authority” legislation - will help to increase export opportunities for U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers and our customers. Our major international competitors are rapidly negotiating and concluding barrier-reducing trade agreements for their companies. These preferential agreements could leave U.S. companies out in the cold.
It’s World Trade Week in America, and no matter where in the world you are, we’re open for business.