Seeking to create jobs and protect Wisconsin's paper industry, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin today introduced legislation that would require the federal government to buy its paper and paper products from American companies.
The PAGE Act (Purchasing American Generates Employment, H.R. 5908) aims to protect American manufacturing jobs by supporting the production of American-made paper and paper products. The legislation requires that such products as copy paper, envelopes, paper towels, paper cups, facial tissues, etc., purchased by a federal agency, must be grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the U.S.
Under current laws, the federal government is required by the Buy American Act to purchase "domestic end products," or products that are manufactured in the U.S., where at least 50 percent of the costs of the components are made here at home. However, under existing free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, paper from U.S. trade partners is considered "American," so the 50 percent requirement includes foreign paper.
"I believe that requiring the federal government to buy its paper and paper products from American companies is a commonsense, strategic way to boost American manufacturing and the paper industry across the country," said Congresswoman Baldwin. "We know the many challenges facing the paper industry in Wisconsin and the U.S. These include burdensome regulations and the unfair trade practices of China, among others. The PAGE Act is one step we can easily undertake to boost American manufacturing and keep our U.S. paper industry strong," Baldwin said.
In 2008, the U.S. fell behind China as the world's largest producer of paper and paper products. Mills across the country are severely challenged by competition from abroad, burdensome regulations, and our society's changing uses of paper products. Although the forest products industry still accounts for approximately 5 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP and employs nearly 900,000 Americans, all of the great paper states have seen serious mill closures and job losses. Wisconsin has lost 24,000 jobs in the forest products industry since 1990.
"The spirit of the proposal -- ensuring that U.S. paper companies have every reasonable opportunity in the U.S. marketplace, particularly in light of the challenges of the external economic environment for this sector -- is commendable, and Congresswoman Baldwin's continued interest in supporting U.S. paper companies like Appleton is exceedingly important to us and our Wisconsin employees," said Kent Willetts, Senior Vice President of Wisconsin paper manufacturer Appleton, Inc.
Baldwin's bill would allow exceptions for procurements outside of the U.S. to support combat operations, for ships in foreign waters, and certain defense purchases.