Canadian Officials ‘Optimistic’ After Meeting with U.S. Coalition

Originally published by: Herald News (Nova Scotia)January 17, 2017

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Nova Scotia Trade Minister Michel Samson said he is optimistic after softwood lumber meetings in Washington on Wednesday.

Samson, Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines, as well as representatives from the provincial lumber industry travelled to the U.S. capitol to meet with David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, and Zoltan van Heyningen, executive director of the United States Lumber Coalition and its legal counsel.

Samson said while no firm commitments or agreements had been achieved, the delegation made clear Nova Scotia’s position on the importance of maintaining the Atlantic province’s longstanding exclusion from tariffs.

“I think there's a recognition by everyone that Nova Scotia has had competitive stumpage rates on both Crown land and on private land, and that there’s no sign of any subsidization in Nova Scotia,” Samson told the Chronicle Herald.

Legal battles over softwood lumber between the U.S. and Canada have been ongoing since the 1980s. There have been four agreements between the two countries, with the last agreement being reached in 2006.

Because most wood in Atlantic Canada is cut on land owned by private business instead of Crown land, as is the case in the rest of the country, in the past U.S. industry has not seen it as an unfairly subsidized resource. Therefore, wood exported from Atlantic Canadian provinces has been exempted from tariffs in all past softwood lumber agreements, dating back to the 1980s.

But the most recent agreement expired in October 2015, and the one-year grace period was up this fall.

In late November, the U.S. Lumber Coalition submitted a petition with the United States Department of Commerce, and duties could be imposed as early as February if a new deal isn’t reached.

“It’s a question of how the U.S. Department of Commerce deals with this if it continues to go down the road of litigation that it’s currently on right now,” said Samson.

He said there is a push in the U.S. to go to a quota-based system for Canadian softwood lumber, but the province is opposed to that as well.

“We believe it should maintain the same type of agreement that was there in the past,” he said.

With Donald Trump to be inaugurated this week — bringing with him protectionist sentiments that have raised a number of concerns regarding trade with Canada — Samson called the meeting timely.

Presently, a large majority of the lumber that the region produces is exported to the U.S., so a change in tariffs could be a huge hit to the industry.

Samson said the industry is obviously concerned about the prospect of new duties, but he said the province will continue to work with other provinces as well as the federal government to ensure a deal is reached that maintains the exclusion.


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