By Joseph L. O’Donnell
Director, Government & Public Affairs
International Wood Products
In my role as Director of Government & Public Affairs for the International Wood Products Association, I work every day to advance the interests of the North American global wood products industry here in Washington, D.C. and internationally. 2022 will be an important year for our industry, and we at IWPA are energized to continue to effectively serve our members in the halls of power.
This year will be especially pivotal as the 2022 mid-term elections could see a swing from one-party control of Washington to a situation in which Republicans control one or both chambers of Congress after November. Whatever the result, the congressional makeup could then impact national sentiment in the run up to the 2024 presidential election.
But before we get to the November mid-terms, industry leaders are focused on a number of key legislative items in the meantime. In particular, many IWPA members are keenly interested in the prospects for retroactive renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which lapsed at the end of 2020. After a strong bipartisan Senate vote to include text that would retroactively renew GSP in China competitiveness legislation last June, we at IWPA were optimistic that the lapse in GSP benefits would be a short one. However, Democrats’ highest trade priority continues to be renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program popular among Democrats but controversial among Republicans, that is often packaged with Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Democrats currently hope to include TAA in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, which continues its slow march through Congress. We anticipate that Congress will need to settle on a path forward on TAA and TPA before GSP can finally be passed. As both chambers continue to focus on Democrats’ reconciliation package, IWPA staff will continue to meet with Members of Congress and staff to share member perspectives about the importance of retroactive GSP renewal.
We also continue to hear from members about the ongoing supply chain challenges and port congestion. IWPA members have had the opportunity to dig into this issue through our Global Supply Chain Logistics & Cargo Handling Committee. Last year, IWPA hosted a webinar featuring a key leader from the American Association of Port Authorities in order to give its members unique insights into the multi-faceted challenges, steps being taken to address them, and a partnership opportunity with a key stakeholder. On the legislative front, IWPA has been a strong supporter of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021. This bill would make updates to the federal Shipping Act and institute remedies for unfair shipping practices that exacerbate global supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. Additionally, the bill would require the Federal Maritime Commission to initiate a rulemaking to establish rules prohibiting common carriers and marine terminal operators from adopting and applying unjust and unreasonable demurrage and detention rules and practices. IWPA has been advocating for passage of this important bill. Following bipartisan passage in the House of Representatives, the next step is passage by the Senate. While the outlook and timing is uncertain, we are hopeful that the Senate will take up and pass this important legislation as soon as possible. IWPA will continue to advocate for this action.
A proposal known as the FOREST Act also seeks to counter illegal deforestation around the globe by expanding the template of the Lacey Act to commodities such as leather, beef, soy, and cocoa. While wood products are not covered by the FOREST Act as introduced, IWPA is communicating with relevant lawmakers about our industry’s experiences complying with the Lacey Act and how this proposal could inadvertently impact trade in legally sourced wood products.
To learn more about how policymakers are attempting to tackle these issues, as well as the ways you can work with them to achieve positive outcomes for your business, we invite you to join us at IWPA’s World of Wood Convention, being held April 7-9 at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate in Orlando, Florida. We will have a full program of informative presentations and discussions, as well as valuable networking events and exhibitors. Registration information, including an up to date list of attendees, can be found on our event website at www.IWPAwood.org/mpage/WOW2022.
As we keep a keen eye on the activities of Congress, the White House and the pertinent agencies impacting our industry, we are consistently engaging in ways that will deliver value to IWPA members. Success comes from being constantly vigilant, taking meaningful action as each situation requires, maintaining relationships with policymakers and staff, and communicating with stakeholders about potential solutions to the challenges that face us. We anticipate an action-packed year ahead and stand ready to adapt with the changes that will undoubtedly come.