November 5, 2005 E-Newsletter: Udall Wins Exemption For Ski And Snowboard Pants In Chinese Trade Quota
This past summer, I wrote to the U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman asking that ski and snowboard pants be exempted from a quota imposed on apparel imports from China because it would have a severe impact on retailers and consumers in Colorado and on the tourism industry. On November 1, the ambassador announced that the quota won't include ski and snowboard pants.
I am pleased that Ambassador Portman has agreed to exclude ski and snowboard pants from the quota on apparel and textile imports from China. I understand that corrective measures need to be in place to prevent China from flooding the U.S. markets with cheap goods, but since nearly all ski and snowboard pants imports come from China, consumers and retailers would have been hit hard, especially with the ski season right around the corner.
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China's World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement allows the U.S. and other countries to impose quotas on textile and apparel imports from China if they determine these products are causing "market disruption." Since December 2003, the U.S. has implemented one year quotas on a number of products including knit fabrics, cotton, wool, and man-made fiber socks. On May 18, 2005, the administration announced its intention to impose a quota on "man-made fiber trousers" which affects a wide array of goods, including ski and snowboard pants.
There has been no domestic production of ski and snowboard pants in the U.S. for over 15 years, and nearly all U.S. imports of these products come from China. These products typically arrive in the U.S. in the late summer for the winter season, and since the U.S. quota for man-made fiber pants is filled by then, no ski and snowboard pants from China would have been allowed to enter the country. In addition, it is too late in the production schedule to shift 2005 production outside of China.
The quota would have created a significant shortage of snow sport apparel in the U.S. and would have resulted in higher prices so I'm pleased the Bush administration acted on my request. Winter sport enthusiasts can rest assured knowing that they will have the equipment they will need to enjoy the slopes.
U.S. REPS. UDALL AND SALAZAR UNVEIL PROPOSAL TO ADDRESS BARK BEETLE PROBLEM
On November 3, Rep. John Salazar and I released draft legislation to address the impacts of bark beetles and the increased fire danger that they pose to communities near Colorado's forests. The provisions of the draft legislation are based on discussions that we have had with local elected officials, representatives of the Forest Service, the timber and ski industries, homeowners, and others.
Colorado's forests are experiencing a major infestation of bark beetles. Large stands of beetle-killed trees pose a threat of severe wildfires, putting lives and property at risk in many Colorado communities. We believe legislation is needed to cut the red tape that complicates efforts to do needed thinning, and we want to include private industry, state and local governments in helping with the needed work. We invite Coloradans to provide us with their input on this proposed legislation and join us in working together to address this problem.
The proposed bill does the following:
* allows bark beetle projectsas well as projects under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act to move forward under streamlined procedures, and the most urgent ones to move under a "categorical exclusion" from normal environmental review;
* amends the Healthy Forests Restoration Act to allow governors to request that the Forest Service declare "emergency areas" in order to conduct forest thinning projects and community protection projects under a streamlined environmental review process;
* provides economic incentives and tax exemptions for cutters and haulers who derive income from the removal of beetle-killed trees or other fuel reduction projects;
* directs the Forest Service to give a preference to anyone seeking a federal grant to convert removed biomass (e.g. beetle-killed trees) into energy to those that secure that biomass under a project to reduce the affects of an insect-infested area;
* directs that $5 million annually for 5 years produced from the royalties from on-shore oil and gas development be applied to grants to help communities develop a community wildlife protection plan; and
* authorizes the Forest Service to redirect existing personnel from other regions to help respond to a beetle emergency in the Rocky Mountain region.
Interested parties should provide their input on the legislation to our offices by November 17.
UDALL BACKS PROPERTY RIGHTS BILL
On November 3, I voted for H.R. 4128, the Private Property Protection Act. The bill responds to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Kelo et al v. New London et al, which upheld a local government's action in condemning private houses so the land could be used for commercial purposes.
The bill prohibits federal agencies from taking private property for the kind of economic development project involved in the Kelo case. And it will penalize any state or local government that takes private property and conveys or leases it to another private entity, either for a commercial purpose or to generate additional taxes, employment, or general economic health.
A state or local government found to have violated this prohibition would be ineligible for certain federal economic development funds for two years, but could become eligible by returning or replacing the property. The bill also would give private property owners the right to bring legal actions seeking enforcement of these provisions. This is strong medicine -- but I think the prescription is appropriate.
I agree with Justice O'Conner's dissent in the Kelo case, which warned that the decision could make more likely that eminent domain would be used in a reverse Robin Hood fashion -- taking from the poor, giving to the rich - and that "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
The bill does not apply to the types of takings that have traditionally been considered appropriate public uses, and it also includes exceptions for the transfer of property to public ownership or to common carriers and public utilities. It also would not preclude actions to curtail immediate threats to public health or safety.
States, through their legislatures or in some cases by direct popular vote, can put limits on the use of eminent domain by their agencies or local governments and I think this would be the best way to address potential abuses. Already, members of the Colorado General Assembly are acting to curb potential abuses in the use of the eminent domain power - an effort I support -- and some have suggested that as a result there is no need for this bill.
While this bill is not perfect, Congress should act to provide an effective deterrent to abuse of eminent domain and still allow its use in appropriate circumstances. This bill strikes a fair balance and that is why I supported it.
ONLINE FREEDOM OF SPEECH ACT WINS APPROVAL
I was pleased to support H.R. 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act. The bill amends the Federal Election Campaign Act to exclude blogs and other communications over the Internet from the definition of "public communication."
This bill protects citizens who engage in the nation's political dialogue using Internet web sites and blogs from regulation under the federal campaign finance laws. More Americans turn to the Internet for their news. Bloggers have testified that they face considerable regulatory problems that only serve to chill speech. This bill partially remedies that problem, and so I voted for it in order to ensure freedom of speech over the Internet.
Congressman Mark Udall
Serving Colorado's Front Range and Western Slope