Final softwood lumber duties set in 20% range

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Commerce Department determined that exporters from Canada have sold softwood lumber the United States at 3.20 percent to 8.89 percent less than fair value.

The lumber dispute, a similar tariff fight over Bombardier Inc. jets made in Canada, and a disagreement over milk products have dominated business headlines in Canada this year, raising concerns that the trade friction could spill over into the neighbors' broader bilateral ties.

The U.S. argues that in their view the duty is required to offset unfair subsidies that Canadian and provincial governments allegedly provide to lumber companies.

A timeline provided by the provincial government indicated the U.S. Lumber Coalition filed petitions with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Commerce Department on November 25, 2016, alleging certain Canadian provinces illegally subsidize lumber producers and certain producers were dumping products into the U.S. market.

Also excluded is USA lumber shipped to Canada for some processing and imported back into the US, certain box spring kits, and box-spring frame components.

A previous softwood lumber agreement expired in 2015, although it was provisionally extended for a year to work out a new deal.

In a joint statement, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr described the decision as "unfair, unwarranted and deeply troubling".

The U.S. Commerce Department on Thursday announced it will impose finalized softwood lumber import duties on several Canadian firms.

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"We are pleased the U.S. government is enforcing our trade laws so that the U.S. lumber industry can compete on a level playing field", said Jason Brochu, co-chairman and co-president of the U.S. Lumber Coalition.

The preliminary duties have forced Canadian companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in deposits, which could be refunded if they win a final ruling by the US International Trade Commission around December 18.

The decision affirmed a preliminary action taken by the Commerce Department in April. Also excluded are US lumber shipped to Canada for some processing and imported back into the USA, certain box-spring kits, and box-spring frame components. In addition, it concluded that Canada is providing unfair subsidies to its producers at rates from 3.34 percent to 18.19 percent.

Freeland and Carr said that the Canadian Government is reviewing its options, including the possibility of legal action through NAFTA and the WTO.

"Home builders and home owners are already dealing with the monumental rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane season and California wildfires", Granger said.

The softwood lumber duties are a double-whammy for the USA housing sector, which is expected to have mortgage interest deductibility on new home purchases capped at US$500,000 during the federal tax overhaul. "This tariff only adds to the burden by harming housing affordability and artificially boosting the price of lumber".

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he didn't expect the softwood lumber decision to affect NAFTA negotiations between the United States and Canada. These duties are a tax on American middle-class families too, whose homes, renovations and repairs will only be more expensive.

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