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Horgan vows to fight US softwood levies that could hurt BC forestry jobs

(iStock Photo)

The US imposes 20 per cent duties, not 27 per cent as initially thought

John Horgan taking forestry stakeholders to China and Japan this month

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The US government plans to slap duties of more than 20 per cent on Canadian softwood lumber and that has BC’s premier renewing a promise to protect forestry jobs here.

John Horgan is taking no comfort from Americans backing off of raising levies by almost 27 per cent.

Like he has said many times before, Horgan is vowing to fight for 60,000 British Columbians who depend on forestry. “This is unfair. It’s a typical pattern by a small group of industry advocates in the United States that are cutting off their nose to spite their face.”

He says the slight reduction in rates is a sign Canada’s pending appeal is strong, but that can’t be filed until December, so he’s taking 35 forestry stakeholders to China and Japan later this month to secure new markets.

“We have to retain our share and potentially grow our share of the US market, but we also know that the world wants our products. We need to find ways to get those products to those markets.”

Horgan’s also expecting American consumers to revolt against higher prices when they buy, build or renovate homes.
Susan Yurkovich, head of the BC Council of Forest Industries, says while the rates are lower, the fact the duties remain in place is extremely disappointing. She says their position continues to be that the duties are unwarranted and the trade action is without merit.

“Unfortunately, for both Canadian producers and American consumers, this ongoing trade action against our industry continues to be driven by a protectionist US lumber industry whose sole purpose is to constrain the imports of high quality Canadian lumber to drive up prices for their own benefit.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr released a joint statement today saying the federal government will turn to litigation if required to defend the industry and that it expects to win — as it has in the past.

US duties on Canadian softwood

The US Department of Commerce said in its final determination released Thursday that most Canadian producers will pay a combined countervailing and anti-dumping rate of 20.83 per cent, down from 26.75 per cent in the preliminary determinations issued earlier this year.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the revised duties were issued after the United States and Canada were unable to reach a long-term settlement to the dispute.

“While I am disappointed that a negotiated agreement could not be made between domestic and Canadian softwood producers, the United States is committed to free, fair and reciprocal trade with Canada,” he said in a news release. “This decision is based on a full and unbiased review of the facts in an open and transparent process that defends American workers and businesses from unfair trade practices.”

While the duties are lower for most producers than first indicated by US officials, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says they are still unacceptable. “We’re, I guess, pleased that they’re not as bad as they were before. But they still represent a burden on forestry workers and communities right across this country,” says Trudeau.

The preliminary duties have forced Canadian companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in deposits, which could be refunded if they win a final ruling by the US International Trade Commission around Dec. 18.

The duties have driven up the price of lumber to cover the extra costs, adding to the cost of building a home in the United States. Canadian unions and lumber companies fear the issue will eventually cause layoffs once prices and demand fall.
West Fraser Timber will continue to pay the highest duties, but its total is being cut to 23.7 per cent from 30.88 per cent.
Canfor is next at 22.13, down from 27.98, Tolko at 22.07 vs. 27.03.

The rate for Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products rises marginally to 17.9 per cent from 17.41 per cent and J.D. Irving’s rate inches up to 9.92 per cent from 9.89 per cent.

Also excluded is U.S. lumber shipped to Canada for some processing and imported back into the US, certain box spring kits, and box-spring frame components.

The United States imported US$5.66 billion worth of softwood lumber last year from Canada.