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Softwood lumber trade war sees Canada pledge hard push against U.S.

Trade Minister Mary Ng call American duties ‘unfair, unjust and illegal’
Minister of Export Promotion, International Trade and Economic Development Mary Ng speaks to reporters during the Liberal Cabinet retreat in Charlottetown, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is broadening its pushback against the latest U.S. decision to keep imposing duties on Canadian softwood lumber.

Trade Minister Mary Ng says Canada is launching challenges under the North American free-trade deal as well as before the U.S. Court of International Trade.

Nine days ago, Ottawa sought a judicial review of last month’s Commerce Department assessment of the levies, which provided modest relief but maintained the combined duty rate at 7.99 per cent.

Ng says Canada remains open to negotiating a resolution to the decades-old dispute, which she calls “unfair, unjust and illegal,” while arguing it increases housing costs.

She is again urging U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to sit down and negotiate a resolution to the decades-old dispute.

Such a deal would be challenging since the U.S. takes issue with a long-standing regulatory system in Canada that it says puts American producers at a disadvantage.

Tai has said the U.S. would be willing to negotiate, but only if Canada does away with a system that allows provinces to set prices for timber from Crown land.

The U.S. ambassador to Canada echoed that sentiment in a statement issued Thursday evening.

“The United States is open to resolving our differences with Canada over softwood lumber to ensure a level playing field for U.S. industry,” David Cohen said.

“U.S. trade officials have communicated to Canada our commitment to reaching an agreement if Canada addresses underlying policy issues related to subsidization and fair competition.”

Ng’s decision this week will have Canada bring the latest U.S. anti-dumping duty determination before the U.S. Court of International Trade.

Ottawa is also challenging the Commerce Department’s fourth review under Chapter 10 of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement, which pertains to review and dispute settlement procedures. Ottawa made the same move a year ago after the third review.

READ ALSO: Canada wants judicial review of latest U.S. softwood lumber duties