U.S. lumber tariffs ‘top priority’

June 8, 2021

By: The Working Forest Staff

iPOLITICS — The U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber are a “top priority for me,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng told the standing committee on International Trade on Friday.

Since the 1980s, the two countries have been embroiled in a trade dispute over softwood lumber, with the U.S. claiming the Canadian industry is unfairly subsidized. The most recent agreement between Canada and the U.S. expired in 2015.

In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump slapped a 20 percent tariff on Canadian softwood lumber, which was lowered to its current nine percent after the World Trade Organization ruled in Canada’s favour last year.

Ng told committee members that Canada does not subsidize its softwood lumber industry, a message her government has told U.S. officials many times.

Last month, the U.S. Commerce Department released preliminary results of its Antidumping Duty Administrative Review of softwood lumber products from Canada and recommended doubling tariffs, from about nine to 18 percent.

A week before the report was released, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told members of the Senate Finance committee on Capitol Hill she would “push for solutions to the lumber-pricing issues.”

Ng told the committee on Friday that she’s working on the tariffs with members of the industry — along with provincial and territorial governments and embassy officials in Washington, D.C. — and her government has made it clear to the Biden administration that “we are ready for discussion at any time.”

“As the tariffs have been levied, we are working with the (lumber) sector to help them to diversify and reach other markets, including Australia and the Philippines,” Ng said.

She also confirmed that her department is closely watching two state bills, one in New York and the other in California, that limit the purchase of lumber from endangered and declining forests. She’s also watching to see how the bills might affect Canadian lumber exports to the U.S.

Ng told the committee that, on top of being unjustified, the tariffs constitute “a tax on the American people.”

Last month, the National Association of Home Builders in the U.S. expressed a similar concern.

If the administration goes ahead with the tariff increase, “it would further exacerbate the national affordability crisis … and force U.S. homebuyers and lumber consumers to foot the bill for this ill-conceived protectionist action,” the association said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Lumber Coalition says it’s in favour of raising tariffs, because doing so would create “a level playing field.”

The U.S. Commerce Department will review the proposed tariff hike before it’s formalized.

See more HERE.

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