October 25, 2006    Volume 13, No. 19

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MTN Learns: Proposed Trade Association In Washington Will Pursue Interests Of U.S. Producers



BY RICHARD McCORMACK richard@manufacturingnews.com


A new coalition is being organized in Washington, D.C., aimed at promoting the interests of U.S. producers of manufactured goods and agricultural products. Labor organizations and ranchers are also expected to be involved.

Organizers are in the early stages of creating the Coalition of American Producers, a tentative name that could change. The effort involves about a dozen individuals and is being led by David "Skip" Hartquist, a partner with the law firm of Kelley Drye, and Charles Blum, president of the International Advisory Services Group. Hartquist's clients include the Specialty Steel Industry of North America, the Valve Manufacturers Association, the Copper and Brass Fabricators Council and the China Currency Coalition.

"There is a lot of firepower and enthusiasm" behind the new organization, says Hartquist. "This is a very sophisticated and experienced group of people who have been involved in these activities for decades. They are talking the same language and are very realistic about the challenges of putting something like this together and making sure that there is a solid agenda with achievable goals."

The proposed coalition will have a fairly narrow focus on promoting policies that encourage investment in U.S. production. It hopes to gain traction by providing policymakers with an organization they can trust to not having been infiltrated by foreign interests. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber and Commerce, the Information Technology Association of American, the American Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers are now being viewed skeptically, having lost the trust of those in Congress and the executive branch due to their stance on issues related to the benefits of offshore outsourcing of labor and production.

The Coalition of American Producers will promote tax incentives for investment in production in the United States. It expects to look at energy policy, health care and increased investment in U.S. infrastructure. China currency issues will likely be addressed, although the China Currency Coalition will continue its work on that issue.

Trade is also tentatively on the agenda, but could be dropped due to the composition of the group. Tariffs placed on one product category generally impact U.S. consumers of those products, leading to tensions that are not easily ameliorated. "Some of the trade issues might cause some conflicts, so we want to do the things that we can comfortably do together," Hartquist explains. General enforcement of trade laws is something that would be supported, "but when you get into real details, like should countervailing duty cases be allowed against non-market economies like China, that's something that needs to be discussed."

Hartquist notes that the new group is not being organized as a counter to the National Association of Manufacturers or as a means to siphon off its U.S.-based members aggravated with its current policy choices on China. Domestic producers claim that NAM is favoring the interests of large multinationals that have moved production to low-cost countries at the expense of American suppliers.

"This is not intended to take a shot at the NAM or encourage companies to leave NAM because there are many things the NAM stands for that are perfectly acceptable to this group," says Hartquist. "But then there are other issues where there is a clear divide. We want to have another spokesman to deal with the issues where there are disagreements."

Organizers do not believe other Washington trade associations are in a position to effectively represent their interests in an aggressive manner on Capitol Hill. The United States Business and Industry Council fills a niche of issuing studies and promoting the demise of the World Trade Organization, but is not viewed as being effective on Capitol Hill when it matters due to being viewed as overtly protectionist. The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition tends to focus on the textile sector. "They have roles of their own that they play," says Hartquist. "It remains to be seen how our agenda would differ or be consistent with theirs."

The Coalition of American Producers would have a broader base of members than those two groups "and a little different constituency that would have a real effectiveness on the Hill where a lot of these issues would start," says Hartquist.

The group has named a steering committee, is developing preliminary papers to define the basic structure and budget of the organization, and is identifying issues to be addressed. Skip can be reached at 202-342-8450 or via e-mail at dhartquist@kelleydrye.com.



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