Hike to U.S. softwood lumber duties ‘entirely unwarranted,’ trade minister

The federal government has lashed out at the U.S. Commerce Department over plans to raise duties on Canadian softwood lumber.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng says the U.S. has signalled it intends to raise duties to 13.86 per cent, up from 8.05 per cent.

Ng calls the move disappointing and entirely unwarranted.

It’s the latest salvo in a bilateral back-and-forth that Ottawa has described as a drag on efforts to improve the cost and supply of housing.

Last month, Ng vowed to contest a U.S. International Trade Commission decision to keep the duties in place. 

She says Canada will fight the duties by every means available, including litigation through existing trade agreements, as well as the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Court of International Trade. 

WATCH | Canada challenging ‘unwarranted and unfair’ U.S. duties on softwood lumber: 

Canada officially challenging ‘unfair’ U.S. duties on softwood lumber

Canada is formally initiating a challenge of what it’s deemed ‘unwarranted and unfair’ U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement’s dispute resolution system.

Canada is “extremely disappointed” in the latest finding by the Commerce Department, Ng said. “This measure is entirely unwarranted.”

At the same time, she said, the federal government stands ready to negotiate a resolution to the dispute that has dogged the Canada-U.S. relationship for decades. 

“We will continue to work closely with provinces, territories and industry to defend Canadian interests through all available avenues,” Ng said. 

“We remain ready and willing to work with the United States toward a negotiated solution that allows for a return to predictable cross-border trade in softwood lumber.”

Under the U.S. Tariff Act, the Department of Commerce determines whether goods are being sold at less than fair value or if they’re benefiting from subsidies provided by foreign governments.

In Canada, lumber-producing provinces set so-called stumpage fees for timber harvested from Crown land, a system that U.S. producers — forced to pay market rates — consider an unfair subsidy.

Fresh cut lumber is pictured stacked at a mill.
Fresh cut lumber is pictured stacked at a mill along the Stave River in Maple Ridge, B.C. on April 25, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Duties ‘hurting Canadians and Americans alike,’ B.C. says

The B.C. government issued a similar statement Thursday, saying the Commerce Department decision is “deeply disappointing.” 

“The continued application of unjustified duties on B.C. softwood lumber exports to the U.S. is hurting Canadians and Americans alike,” said the joint statement attributed to Forests Minister Bruce Ralston, Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey, and several other officials.

“As we work with our industry partners to develop a dependable and sustainable forest industry in B.C., we are continually impeded by these tariffs, leading to higher prices…

Read More: Hike to U.S. softwood lumber duties ‘entirely unwarranted,’ trade minister

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