Ottawa Citizen

U.S. plans to double duties on imports


The U.S. Department of Commerce issued new preliminar­y rulings on antidumpin­g tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber imports that would double the current duties if implemente­d.

Commerce's Internatio­nal Trade Administra­tion has calculated a preliminar­y duty of 18.32 per cent, but the current 8.99-per-cent rate remains in place, because a final determinat­ion hasn't been made, a Commerce official said. The final antidumpin­g and countervai­ling duties differ from the initial calculatio­n as comments and case briefs are taken into account.

We find the significan­t increase in today's preliminar­y rates troubling.

The determinat­ion will only come later in the year.

A push to double tariffs on wood imports comes as U.S. demand outstrips supply in a time of surging residentia­l constructi­on, causing lumber prices to more than triple in the past year. The National Associatio­n of Home Builders has urged Washington to negotiate a new trade deal with Canada to secure supplies and halt further hikes.

“We find the significan­t increase in today's preliminar­y rates troubling,” Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council, said in a statement. “It is particular­ly egregious given lumber prices are at a record high and demand is skyrocketi­ng in the U.S . ... ”

The unwarrante­d tariffs will ultimately further hurt American consumers by adding to their costs, said Yurkovich, whose organizati­on represents lumber producers in British Columbia.

The two nations have had decades of disagreeme­nt over the issue, with the U.S. alleging its northern neighbour unfairly subsidizes lumber production. In 2019, the World Trade Organizati­on said the U.S. violated internatio­nal trade rules in the way it calculated tariffs on Canadian imports of softwood lumber. The combined rate — which the U.S. first instituted in January 2018 — was cut to 8.99 per cent from 20.23 per cent in November.

The U.S. Lumber Coalition, which represents producers across the country, welcomed the preliminar­y ruling.

“A level playing field is a critical element for continued investment and growth for U.S. lumber manufactur­ing to meet strong building demand to build more American homes,” Jason Brochu, co-chair of the coalition, said in a statement.

Canadian lumber producers should see reduced profitabil­ity later in Q4 as duty rates more than double to levels a bit higher than expected, CIBC analyst Hamir Patel said in a note.

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