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Administration Urged to Move Quickly on Trade Agreements Regarding Paper

Press release from the issuing company

WASHINGTON, DC 3/29/01 A forest products industry executive told Congress today that the Bush Administration must accelerate the timetable for negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Chile, a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and other bilateral and multilateral deals that include tariff relief for forest products. "The U.S. catch-up strategy for market access must include the concept of early deliverables in selected sectors, including forest products," said Donald R. Burke, vice president of The Mead Corporation. Mead is one of the leading North American producers of coated printing paper, coated paperboard, multiple packaging, specialty paper, corrugated medium, and consumer and office products. Burke testified before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade on behalf of Mead and the American Forest & Paper Association, the national trade association of the forest products industry. He told the subcommittee that it was a "painful fact of everyday life" that the U.S. has fallen behind in gaining market access for its manufacturers, and that its exporters and their workers are facing discriminatory customs tariffs, while other countries are finalizing their own tariff free trade agreements. As an example, he cited Canada's 1997 Free Trade Agreement with Chile, under which virtually all Canadian wood and paper products received duty free treatment on implementation. "The effect on U.S. wood and paper sales was immediate and devastating," he said. The U.S. share of Chile's paper market dropped from 30% in 1997 to 13% in 2000, and U.S. exports of wood products fell 25%. The answer, said Burke is for the Bush Administration to rapidly conclude the FTA with Chile and ensure that all tariffs on U.S. wood and paper products be reduced to zero immediately."The United States cannot accept an agreement which prolongs the period during which our country's products are treated less favorably than those of our Canadian competitors, " he said. Burke also urged the Congress to give the Administration negotiating authority needed to accomplish these objectives.