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Trade problems explored at forum

Weak and uncompetitive national tax and trade practices hobble American manufacturing as it tries to recover from huge job losses, a panel of local business executives said at a forum Monday held by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner.

The forum at Sinclair Community College also included Ohio legislators Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, who heads a state panel on workforce and economic development, Reps. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, and Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton.

About 55 attended, mostly business and government representatives, including Allan Shaffer, president of Dayton Progress Corp.; Warren Davidson, owner of Yasotay and board member of the Dayton Region Manufacturers’ Association; Rick Garver, general manager of Harco Manufacturing Group, and Jim Whalen, CEO of Gem City Engineering and Manufacturing.

The theme was the annual U.S. trade deficit and engineering national policy to emphasize manufacturing to ensure it is not outmaneuvered by illegal trade tactics, including ending delays by federal government fair trade enforcers. Slowness has cost the Miami Valley jobs, including a recent 5 percent layoff at NewPage Corp. of Miamisburg, said Amber Best, vice president of government affairs.

The company and Appleton Coated LLC, Sappi Fine Paper North America and the United Steelworkers Union, filed trade cases in September 2009 to end dumping of coated paper by China and Indonesia. The companies prevailed before the U.S. International Trade Commission in October 2010, but three mills closed in Wisconsin, the company went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging in December, Best and Turner said.

Best said the fight continues, now against Canadian products.

“Approximately 300 positions, or 5 percent, across our company were eliminated as a result of declining coated paper demand as well as in part by an illegal government subsidy to a Canadian paper mill,” she said.

Other topics included adopting a value added tax, or VAT, which are in effect tariffs imposed by 155 competing nations on U.S. exported goods, while the U.S. imposes minimal tariffs. It causes an estimated $500 billion a year in trade distortions, said Michael Stumo of domestic industry advocate Coalition for a Prosperous America. Adopting a VAT here could provide big tax relief to domestic producers and boost manufacturing, he added.

“We have to bring manufacturing back. Every day when someone goes into a store and buys something, that’s a job opportunity for some one,” Turner said.

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