National Post

N.B. fights for lumber tariffs exemption


FREDERICTO­N • The New Brunswick government is calling for an immediate start to negotiatio­ns between Canada and the United States to ensure softwood lumber from Atlantic Canada is exempt from countervai­ling duties.

Provincial government­s in the region have warned that the duties could lead to mill closures and lost jobs.

“New Brunswick and the Maritimes are not subsidizin­g the industry and we want to retain that status,” said Roger Melanson, New Brunswick’s minister responsibl­e for trade policy.

He said the province will appoint a senior negotiator to represent New Brunswick’s interests in Ottawa and Washington.

Making the announceme­nt at a sawmill in Fredericto­n, Melanson said the province will lead trade missions to Europe and China this year to try to expand markets for New Brunswick softwood products.

The U. S. Department of Commerce said this week it would subject Canadian lumber imports to tariffs ranging from three to 24 per cent.

The U. S. administra­tion alleges Canada’s wood comes mostly from Crown land, with artificial­ly low prices giving Canadian companies an unfair advantage.

It’s the fifth time since 1981 that Canada and the U. S. have sparred over softwood, and Canada has prevailed every time it has challenged the U. S. through the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organizati­on or in the U. S. court system.

Nova Scotia Trade Minister Michel Samson said he hopes the countervai­ling duty is temporary.

“We remain determined to get excluded as quickly as possible as industry and government have worked very hard to validate our l ong- standing exclusion which reflects the fact that lumber producers here compete on a level playing field with United States industry,” Samson said.

The U.S. Lumber Coalition had in fact amended its petition to the Department of Commerce to exclude Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundla­nd and Labrador from the ongoing antidumpin­g and countervai­ling duty investigat­ions.

Under the preliminar­y decision, softwood from most Atlantic Canada mills will be subject to a duty of almost 20 per cent when exported to the United States.

The exception i s New Brunswick’s J. D. Irving Ltd., which was slapped with a countervai­ling duty of three per cent, the lowest for any producer in Canada.

Melanson said the lumber industry in the region is heralding the ruling for Irving as an example of how the lumber industry operates in Atlantic Canada.

“They see the benefits of J.D. Irving receiving a threeper- cent countervai­ling tax where at a minimum this would be applicable to them,” he said. But Melanson added they believe there should be an exemption with no duty at all.

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