By Donna Harman
President & CEO
The pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and wood products industry is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the nation - eager to contribute to American economic growth and job creation and steadily implementing sustainability practices to ensure a long future for our manufacturers and the resources they use.
Before we look at the year ahead, a word of thanks to all who contributed to 2017’s public policy achievements. Success takes teamwork, the type displayed throughout the year. Member company and association representatives and AF&PA staff consistently put our industry’s compelling story before the Administration, Capitol Hill, Washington decision makers and state legislators during fly-ins, state advocacy days, public events, face-to-face meetings, hearings, phone calls and in formal testimony.
At every turn, we made a case for key reforms to improve our industry’s ability to invest, innovate and effectively plan for the future. Our efforts produced measurable results with Congress enacting long-overdue tax and regulatory reforms and clarifying federal policy to recognize the carbon-reducing benefits of biomass-based renewable energy.
Comprehensive tax reform is a win for America and our industry. More than three decades after last major overhaul, the president signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. A permanent reduction in the federal corporate tax rate to 21 percent, creation of a new international territorial tax system, repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax and incentives for investment in U.S. manufacturing have modernized a broken system and will support company growth and job creation.
Clear federal policy recognizing the carbon-reducing benefits of biomass-based renewable energy production lifted a seven-year cloud of Environmental Protection Agency uncertainty on the issue. Our manufacturers compete globally against companies from countries that recognize biomass carbon neutrality and deserve a level playing field. Now they have that opportunity.
When it comes to advancing sustainability performance, our member companies continue to lead. In February of 2017, they announced a greenhouse gas reduction goal of 20 percent by the year 2020 under Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability initiative, one of the most extensive sets of sustainability goals set for a U.S. manufacturing industry. Wasting no time, the action came after AF&PA announced in the program’s 2016 report that greenhouse gas emissions from member facilities were reduced by 16 percent, surpassing the 15 percent reduction goal, ahead of schedule.
The 2018 horizon is wide open, and among our policy priorities are: Deeper regulatory reform, free and fair trade policy, efficient freight rail and transportation measures, safeguards for the rights of citizens to choose paper-based communications about essential government services and postal service reforms to ensure mail is the preferred and competitive option in the marketplace.
The cost, complexity and volume of regulations disproportionately affects manufacturers, and we commend the Administration for its continued focus on streamlining or eliminating unwarranted regulations and modernizing the permit process. We also look forward to supporting efforts to improve the regulatory process that will promote the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and job creation and enhance societal well-being.
Free and fair trade policies that recognize our strong global position remain essential. As policymakers weigh potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we will work to ensure Canadian and Mexican markets remain open to our industry’s exports and recognize the benefits of our interconnected supply chain. Our priorities for NAFTA include maintaining open access for U.S. exports, a level playing field for U.S. companies, transparent and sound science-based regulatory practices, commitment to combat illegal logging and associated trade and retaining investor-state dispute settlement protections.
On the transportation front, access to globally-competitive freight delivery is essential. Safely increasing truck weight limits on federal interstate highways and freight rail system rate and service improvements are necessary and have our continued support.
We continue to expect a steady pace of state and local legislative and regulatory activity this year on paper and packaging recovery, fees and bans. California will likely remain the leading voice, as it has identified three types of paper-based packaging to target for regulatory measures: uncoated corrugated, waxed corrugated, and paperboard and aseptic liquid packaging. AF&PA is working with other allies to oppose regulatory action in California.
If mail is to compete with ever-increasing options to reach consumers, rate stability and customer service must be front and center. We support legislative measures that help the United States Postal Service achieve long-term viability by realigning its outdated cost structure, encouraging new revenue sources, and leveraging a unique infrastructure to meet the service needs of future customers. We will continue to follow Congressional action on the House Postal Reform Act and work with the Postal Regulatory Commission to ensure that mail is a preferred and competitive option in the marketplace.
The list is ambitious, but jobs, paychecks, higher standards of living and our ability to compete at home and around the globe are on the line. Our 900,000 employees in rural and urban communities across 45 states understand this dynamic, and so do we. We welcome the challenge of working together to build an even stronger foundation for them to do what they do best – produce the essential paper and wood products that make everyday life better.