Expect the US to get tough on softwood lumber with Trump in the White House

November 14, 2016

By: New 1130

With Donald Trump headed to the White House, observers on this side of the border are wondering what that will mean for trade between the United States and Canada.

Of particular interest to people in BC will be the implications on a new softwood lumber deal, as our province accounts for half of Canada’s softwood lumber sales to the US.

The last 10-year agreement expired this year, though there is a 12-month grace period before a new one must be in place.

Yet given Trump’s protectionist rhetoric on the campaign trail, negotiating that new deal may be especially difficult.

“With Mr. Trump, we’ve got a President-elect who has specifically targeted [trade], whether it’s the North American Free Trade Agreement, there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, there’s a number of trade agreements,” explains Michael Prince, a political scientist at the University of Victoria.

“That’s going to mean some threats of an increase in export prices and duties slapped on our lumber. We’ve had about five or six years of good growth in our exports to the US on lumber and I think we’re going to be coming into some rocky times.”

However, some aren’t sure just how engaged Trump will be with the softwood lumber file once he takes office.

“If you think about Trump’s comments on protectionism, his real focus seemed to be the loss of jobs and economic opportunity because of low-cost labour centres… Mexico, China being the two countries that he spent the most time emphasizing,” says Craig Alexander, chief economist with the Conference Board of Canada.

“No, I don’t think Trump will be helpful in terms of helping resolve the softwood lumber dispute because of his natural inclinations, but at the same time, we should understand that this was going to be a difficult problem to deal with, regardless of who was president.”

Premier Christy Clark has said she’s not aware of Trump ever taking an interest in softwood lumber but indicates she will work with the incoming administration to secure a new agreement.

By: New 1130

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