BY BOB MIODONSKI Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
WASHINGTON — Representatives of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute and the U.S. Department of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding Oct. 29 that gives the U.S. plumbing industry a stronger voice in international trade issues.
“Manufacturers in the plumbing industry will now have a greater opportunity to take advantage of the trade promotion activities and joint efforts to grow U.S. exports of the products we produce and sell,” said PMI President Ralph Herrbach of Atlanta-based Cifial USA. “The Department of Commerce has a breadth of expertise and resources that we, as an organization, will encourage member companies to use.
“It is also helpful to know that the DOC will be helping manufacturers overcome standards-related trade barriers that exist in some markets today.”
Signing the memorandum were PMI Executive Director Barbara Higgens and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development Linda Conlin. One key element of the memorandum will be to catalog standards within the plumbing industry, Conlin said.
“This public-private partnership demonstrates our mutual commitment to expanding trade,” Conlin told PMI members. “We will work with PMI. Yours is a $5 billion industry with $740 million in exports. We would like that to increase.”
Although U.S. plumbing exports increased by 20% in 2002, the amount of plumbing products imported into the United States is larger and it’s growing. The benefits of the agreement between DOC and PMI to the plumbing industry specifically and U.S. economy in general, Conlin said, include:
- Better utilization of DOC’s export promotion programs such as conferences, exhibitions, seminars, site visits, trade missions and other related trade events by plumbing manufacturers;
- Greater U.S. government assistance for plumbing manufacturers that face foreign trade barriers and violation of intellectual property rights; and
- Improved effectiveness of DOC programs.
Conlin mentioned that an earlier agreement with the National Association of Home Builders culminated in a grant program that allowed NAHB to make inroads into Mexico and elsewhere.
After the signing, the next step would be for PMI members to compile a list of specific objectives that they would like DOC to address with foreign trading partners, Higgens said. The list probably will include issues such as product testing and code requirements.