There are no solutions on the immediate horizon to resolve the softwood lumber impasse between the U.S. and Canada, says B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
Donaldson said our position remains advocating for a free market exchange of lumber, but negotiations have stopped due to the influence of a powerful lobby group of U.S. lumber producers.
“They are not interested in negotiating with us so we are now resorting to pursue our case through the legal system as we have done in the past and won,” Donaldson said.
He said anti-dumping and countervailing duties, ranging from three to 24 per cent, are now being collected from B.C. lumber exports south of the border and held in abeyance pending the outcome of that legal appeal mechanism.
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The American lumber produces argue that Canadian lumber mills are subsidized by government and benefit from timber pricing policies and other subsidies which harm U.S. manufacturers and workers.
Countervailing duties are a mechanism to level the playing field when a country believes that another country’s product is unfairly subsidized.
Anti-dumping duties are assessed directly against Canadian manufacturers based on relative detriment to the U.S. industry. For the Okanagan-based Tolko operations, those duties were set at 19.5 per cent
“We believe those duties are unfair, unjust and unwarranted. Lumber prices are an all-time high right now so that helps off-set the impact of those duties, but that isn’t going to last forever so we are concerned about that,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson also noted that when the last softwood dispute was resolve in 2006, the U.S. lobby interests then still pocketed millions of dollars in the settlement, a potential incentive for dragging Canada through a process it has already lost in the past, most recently dating back to 2006.
“I hope and think that when the U.S. consumer start to see the sticker shock on housing costs due to high lumber costs, they will start to apply pressure on their politicians to overturn this intense lobby effort against us.”