Softwood dispute hit the skids

Trade commission rules U.S. industry ‘injured’ by Canada

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says with Canada exporting about $4.7-billion US dollars worth of lumber

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says with Canada exporting about $4.7-billion US dollars worth of lumber

The United States International Trade Commission announced a finding of “injury” allowing the U.S. Department of Commerce to continue its investigation into Canada and Canadian softwood lumber producers for allegations of unfair trade practices.

The commission ruled there was a reasonable indication that softwood lumber products from Canada materially injured American producers, potentially leading back once again to preliminary duties on Canadian wood products seen in past disputes.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says it is “a dance that has been done before” so it very unfortunate to hear Canada is going down this path again.

“In the past, once it has gone through the process time after time – whether it is the NAFTA or the North American Trade Organization tribunals – we have been found in the clear.”

While the time and energy resources it takes to battle these softwood lumber disputes is certainly costly, she adds there are many other issues at stake.

“The trade agreement we had [brought us] peace for 10-plus years and certainly, I think, it worked in everyone’s interest during that time.”

McLeod says a lot of larger Canadian forestry companies have diversified during that tranquil decade, and now ship to both their lumber to both domestic and American markets.

These larger companies can just refocus any softwood lumber finishing into the American markets they can’t accomplish domestically or elsewhere, so those typically fare better, she explains.

“Mostly it’s our small and medium size [companies] that will be most severely impacted, and certainly in British Columbia, it is a huge concern in terms of moving forward and getting this done.”

McLeod had voiced her appeal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama several times last year to get the softwood agreement they’d promised done before President Elect Donald Trump takes over leadership on Jan. 20.

Now, the local MP believes there’s no longer any window of opportunity for a softwood lumber deal to happen, as it’s too late to complete that deal, and it will be difficult to accomplish any softwood agreement once the Trump administration is in power.

“The new [presidential] administration certainly has a more protectionist agenda, so it’s a very big concern.

“But, it wasn’t done, despite all the state dinners and conversations [Trudeau and Obama] had over the past year – it didn’t get done.”

Now, the local Conservative MP says she fears Canada may be in for a “long, protracted dispute” just as it was before, which is sure to impact the forestry sector in B.C., as well as a repeat of the significant impacts on its industry jobs.

“Last year, [Canada] exported about $4.7-billion US dollars worth of lumber, and to have that market eroded is going to be impactful.”