December 12, 2008

Crapo Goes To Bat For Idaho Companies

Questions need to repay funds already paid in trade disputes

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo joined 13 of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate today in urging the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to withdraw letters to Idaho lumber companies and others calling for the return of millions of dollars in previously-disbursed assistance to offset the impact of unfair trade.

Late last month, CBP sent letters to companies requiring repayment of more than $90 million in funds distributed by CBP between 2001 and 2005 under the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (CDSOA). This legislation, commonly known as the Byrd Amendment, enabled the distribution of import duties to U.S. companies injured by unfair trade practices until Congress enacted a provision in 2006 that phased out the Byrd Amendment.

"The repayments are being sought based on a misinterpretation of case law, and the timing for these letters could not have been worse," said Crapo. "Many in the forest products industry are fighting to remain competitive while facing the significant challenges of the housing crisis, low lumber prices, and unfairly subsidized Canadian lumber. The industry has experienced mill closures, job losses and restructuring. We should all be working together to help U.S. companies stay viable rather than wrongly seeking repayment of payments made to companies years ago and expecting repayment within a very short amount of time. I will continue to work to try to get this wrong corrected."

The letter to Commissioner W. Ralph Basham of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reads in part, "The U.S. companies from which past … distributions have been demanded are all petitioners or supporters of petitions in investigations that led to antidumping or countervailing duty orders against imports from Canada or Mexico." The letter notes CBPs requests were unexpected as the U.S. government had previously argued the distributions were appropriate and the court in the related case had not ordered repayment. "This is the worst year for U.S. manufacturers in the last 26 years," the Senators wrote. "The nation's employers shed 533,000 jobs in November alone, the largest one-month loss since December 1974."