Special to CONTRACTOR
BRASELTON, GA. — The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute and the U.S. Department of Commerce plan to sign a memorandum of understanding later this year that would give the U.S. plumbing industry a stronger advocate in world trade issues.
“Officially, we would now have an advocate if we run into pockets of resistance in trade or just have to deal with some of the nuances of world trade,” said Barbara Higgens, PMI’s executive director. “The agreement would formalize our relationship with the Commerce Department. This is a pretty big deal because globalization is so important.”
The purpose of the memorandum is for DOC and PMI to implement a trade promotion program, which would be designed to encourage the growth of U.S. plumbing exports. Although U.S. plumbing exports increased in 2002, so did the amount of plumbing products imported into the United States.
“We saw an increase in U.S. exports last year of about 20%. About 5% of plumbing products made in the United States are exported,” said Patrick MacAuley, an economist with the DOC’s International Trade Administration. He addressed PMI members April 7 during their spring meeting. “We import much more than we export in plumbing products.”
PMI’s agreement with DOC would allow for a formal export promotion program to be developed and implemented. The promotion would use conferences, exhibitions, seminars, site visits, trade missions and other related trade events to promote U.S. plumbing products in the world market.
Both parties likely will sign the agreement in October, near the time of PMI’s fall meeting in Washington, Higgens said. PMI members then would compile a list of objectives that they would like DOC to address with foreign trading partners. The list probably will include issues such as product testing and code requirements, she said.
The agreement does not have a price tag, meaning that neither DOC nor PMI is committed to spending a certain amount of money on the program.
“This will raise our profile higher on the horizon with the Commerce Department,” Higgens said. “It will make it harder to put issues that affect plumbing manufacturers on the back burner.”