Letters to the Editor

Trade pact benefits our forest industry

Florida exports about one-fifth of its goods to countries that have signed on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international agreement that will make it easier for businesses, especially small businesses, to sell products across the globe.

It eliminates more than 18,000 taxes and restrictions placed on American products that have us at a disadvantage. With these barriers removed, small businesses will be able to bring their products to market quicker, easier and more economically.

In order for Florida businesses, and businesses across the nation, to realize the benefit of this agreement, Congress must finalize the trade agreement by the end of the year.

This is especially critical for Florida’s forest industry, which has a $16.4 billion impact on our state’s economy and provides 84,000 jobs. In 2015, more than $27 million worth of forest products left our state ports, headed for international destinations.

Globally, only Canada exports more forest products than the United States. Canada is also one of our top markets, along with China and Mexico. While logs and lumber generate our highest export values, other forest products include paper, furniture, wood pulp and cellulose. More than 5,000 commonly used items contain forest products in some form.

Without this trade pact in place, industries such as ours will not only miss out on growth potential, but they could also see a decline in exports and a loss of market share. If Congress decides against signing on to the agreement, trade will not stop amongst other countries. They will negotiate their own agreements, leaving out the U.S. and our businesses.

I urge Florida’s congressional representatives to take action immediately and sign the TPP agreement. Increased exports are one of our greatest opportunities for growth. We should not let it slip through our fingers.

Alan Shelby, executive vice president, Florida Forestry Association, Tallahassee

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