N.B. premier off to Washington to dis­cuss lum­ber and free trade

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gal­lant is head­ing to Washington for a meet­ing to­day with United States Sec­re­tary of Com­merce Wil­bur Ross Jr. to talk trade.

Ross is a se­nior mem­ber of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cabi­net, and is re­spon­si­ble for ne­go­ti­at­ing the Soft­wood Lum­ber Agree­ment. Gal­lant says the meet­ing will fo­cus on soft­wood lum­ber and the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

“New Brunswick is Canada’s most ex­port-ori­ented prov­ince, so ro­bust trade be­tween the United States and Canada is cru­cial for our econ­omy,” Gal­lant said in a state­ment.

The premier wants New Brunswick ex­cluded from coun­ter­vail­ing du­ties on soft­wood lum­ber ex­ports to the United States.

Last month, the U.S. De­part­ment of Com­merce hit Canada with an ad­di­tional 6.87 per cent in pre­lim­i­nary av­er­age an­tidump­ing tar­iffs, leav­ing the in­dus­try fac­ing av­er­age du­ties of about 27 per cent.

The de­ci­sion ex­empts the other three At­lantic prov­inces, but New Brunswick — ex­empt from such tar­iffs in the past — is not.

Soft­wood lum­ber con­trib­utes more than $1.45 bil­lion to the New Brunswick econ­omy each year and em­ploys more than 22,000 peo­ple.

While most soft­wood lum­ber ex­porters in New Brunswick would be pay­ing a com­bined rate of about 27 per cent, it would be about 10 per cent for J.D. Irv­ing Ltd., which was hit with a three per cent coun­ter­vail­ing duty in April’s pre­lim­i­nary rul­ing.

For­mer U.S. am­bas­sador David Wilkins has been hired as New Brunswick’s spe­cial en­voy on the soft­wood trade dis­pute. He will be part of Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing.

Gal­lant and other pre­miers were in Washington in early June to meet with govern­ment of­fi­cials on the soft­wood lum­ber is­sue.

Que­bec Premier Philippe Couil­lard ex­pressed cau­tious op­ti­mism af­ter a sep­a­rate dis­cus­sion with the U.S. com­merce sec­re­tary about var­i­ous trade-re­lated ir­ri­tants late last month.

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