World Trade Benefits the Forest Products Industry

Erik Heilman

This commentary was originally blogged on AF&PA's website on May 20.

Eighty years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed the third week in May as the first "World Trade Week" to recognize the importance of international trade to the U.S. economy. We still mark World Trade Week today, and the U.S. forest products industry has benefited from the expansion of global commerce. Exports are an important part of our industry’s economic health, accounting for about 15 percent of total sales. In 2013, the industry exported $31.3 billion worth of paper, wood pulp, and wood products.

The industry also benefits greatly from indirect exports; domestic sales of paper, paperboard, and wood packaging materials that are used to package and transport goods exported by other U.S. industries. Our industry is consumer-driven — much of what we make gets used by other companies to package and ship their products. The more American oranges, cereal, beer, and frozen french fries are sold overseas, the more we benefit. And with over 95 percent of the world’s population living outside of the U.S., international trade and trade agreements that remove barriers to trade are critical to a strong consumer-driven manufacturing industry like ours. That’s what trade agreements give us: they help open new markets and break down foreign trade barriers.

Currently, the U.S. is pushing to finalize trade agreements with a group of Asia-Pacific nations and with the European Union. Successful conclusion of these negotiations — as well as congressional passage of "trade promotion authority" legislation — will help to increase export opportunities for U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers and our customers. Our major international competitors are rapidly negotiating and concluding barrier-reducing trade agreements for their companies. These preferential agreements could leave U.S. companies out in the cold.

It's World Trade Week in America, and no matter where in the world you are, we’re open for business.

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance a sustainable U.S. pulp, paper, packaging, and wood products manufacturing industry through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. AF&PA member companies make products essential for everyday life from renewable and recyclable resources and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry's sustainability initiative — Better Practices, Better Planet 2020.

The forest products industry accounts for approximately 4.5 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures approximately $200 billion in products annually, and employs nearly 900,000 men and women. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $50 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 47 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper.