John Horgan: US-imposed duties on BC softwood lumber are entirely unjustified

Robyn Ryan
April 27, 2017

"They rely on imports", said Steve Rustja, a vice president at Canadian lumber company Weston Forest.

"This is not our idea of a properly functioning free trade agreement".

"We expect the [U.S.] Department of Commerce will be issuing a statement this evening and that will tell us as to whether Nova Scotia and the Maritime exclusion is maintained", Michel Samson said Tuesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement on the new duties Monday comes in the midst of a B.C. election, where the Liberals have promised to create new jobs and grow the economy.

As for the lumber dispute, the issue there is that US manufacturers argue that Canadian producers receive an effective government subsidy because their timber is grown on public land, as opposed to the USA where the land is mostly private.

In 2016, imports of softwood lumber from Canada were valued at an estimated $5.66 billion.

Ross also addressed the Trump administration's approach to free trade relative to prior USA administrations, saying the new White House was more focused on "enforcement" than its predecessors.

It could cause a big pinch for our neighbors to the north and it's likely to drive up the cost of lumber for homebuilders and consumers in the U.S. But it could be a positive for Montana timber mills.

When Trump's attempts to sway Canada's dairy tariff, he took to Twitter to say: "Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very hard".

On the dairy side, Canada has long imposed sky high tariffs on United States dairy products to protect Canadian farmers.

"In Canada, what they've done to our dairy farm workers is a disgrace".

Wisconsin had about 135,000 jobs in the overall forest products industry, including wood and paper, in the mid-2000s, said Henry Schienebeck, executive director of the Great Lakes Timber Professional Association, based in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. "We don't necessarily think it's going to be that high".

Ross said that he and the Canadian ministers "tried to negotiate a settlement but we were unable".

The Department of Commerce is expected to make a decision regarding the first round of duties on Tuesday.

Trump also touted his administration's surprise decision late Monday to rekindle an old trade conflict with America's second-largest trading partner by slapping new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber. Trump's initial comments were relayed by four people who were in the room and confirmed by an administration official.

"Our preference is always that there be an agreement worked out between the two countries so we can have a rational system for pricing products to the market".

The two countries have entered into various trade deals to level this playing field.

Asked whether this was linked to the sparring over dairy products, Ross said the investigation into Canadian lumber predates that spat.

The US has long claimed that Canada is unfairly and illegally subsidising its lumber industry by charging minimal fees to log public lands.

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