U.S. makes final finding on Canadian softwood imports, sets duties

The U.S. Department of Commerce has reduced softwood lumber duties for all Canadian producers except Resolute Forest Products. THE CANADIAN PRESS  Paul Chiasson

The United States Department of Commerce has cut back softwood lumber duties for most Canadian producers, but not for Resolute Forest Products. The group alleges Canadian wood is heavily subsidized and imports are harming US mills and workers.

New Brunswick softwood lumber producers, who had been exempt from US tariffs in the past, will now have to pay 20.83 per cent duty, although producers in the rest of Atlantic Canada will be exempt.

The lumber is primarily used in the housing industry.

Carr plans to convene the Federal-Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber in the coming days to discuss developments.

Aides say President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have a strong personal relationship, but at the negotiating table Canadian, Mexican and USA officials are divided in their efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"While I am disappointed that a negotiated agreement could not be made between domestic and Canadian softwood producers, the United States is committed to free, fair and reciprocal trade with Canada", Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in announcing the decision.

"This decision is based on a full and unbiased review of the facts in an open and transparent process that defends American workers and businesses from unfair trade practices", Ross said.

The duties are "unfair, unwarranted and deeply troubling", Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, and Jim Carr, minister of natural resources, said in a joint emailed statement.

Softwood lumber contributes more than $1.45 billion to the New Brunswick economy each year and employs more than 22,000 people.

"The massive subsidies the Canadian government provides to their lumber industries have caused real harm to US producers and their workers", he said.

"Home builders and home owners are already dealing with the monumental rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane season and California wildfires", said Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, in a statement. "These duties are a tax on American middle class families too, whose homes, renovations and repairs will only be more expensive". The Coalition cited unfair subsidies for American lumber producers.

US President Donald Trump's administration has defined itself in large part through an aggressive stance on trade, pledging to shift away from multilateral agreements while reducing trade deficits through countermeasures and bargaining.

Both sides say they would like to strike a deal on lumber trade to avoid tariffs. "Unfortunately, the administration is taking protectionist measures to support domestic lumber producers at the expense of millions of USA home buyers and lumber consumers".

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

It said it remains convinced that lumber from Ontario and Quebec mills should have free, unencumbered access to the USA marketplace, because it is not subsidized.

About 360,000 Canadians were employed in the lumber industry in 2013, Statistics Canada reported.

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