FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The United States fired the first salvo in the latest softwood lumber dispute with Canada on Monday, after the Trump administration announced its first batch of duties on imported wood of around 20 per cent.
That was followed by word that U.S. Customs would start collecting cash deposits from Canadian logging companies, and that duties would be collected retroactively for the previous 90 days.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has applied preliminary countervailing duties of 19.88 percent against lumber imports, with Canfor, West Fraser, and Tolko paying more. The duty rate applied against Tolko’s imports is 19.5 percent, Canfor will be paying a 20.26 percent duty, while West Fraser will see a 24.12 percent tariff applied to their softwood exports to the U.S.
The federal government has condemned the move by the U.S., calling it unfair, baseless and unfounded.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark released a statement yesterday saying that the provincial government will combat “unfounded” claims made by the American lumber production lobby, and work to reach a fair deal with the U.S.
She says she will meet with her cabinet to discuss the developments and determine “further actions to stand up for B.C. workers” and the forest industry.
Clark says that B.C. has already started to diversify its lumber export markets, with the U.S. accounting for 59 per cent of softwood exports in 2015, down from 82 per cent in 2001.
“The forest industry built this province, and it has a strong future ahead – having added 9,825 jobs in the sector since 2011″, said Clark. “We will only accept a new agreement that works for B.C. We will fight, and we will win – as we have before.”
The previous softwood lumber agreement between the two countries expired two years ago, and the duties are not unexpected due to a long-simmering dispute over whether Canadian companies that harvest timber on Crown land constitutes a subsidy by the federal government.
The B.C. Lumber Trade Council is also decrying the new duties, saying in a release that they are unwarranted and “completely without merit.”
Council President Susan Yurkovich says that American demand for lumber exceeds what the U.S. industry can produce and that Canadian imports don’t pose a threat to U.S. lumber producers.