The U.S. Lumber Coalition has submitted a petition to the American government requesting an investigation in the ongoing softwood lumber dispute.
The coalition is formally asking the U.S. government to impose duties against Canadian softwood lumber producers, ending a decade of trade peace.
“It’s scary right now because this is the ongoing mess that’s become international trade and this protectionist policy all around the world we’re witnessing. We’ve been waiting for a year now whether or not the B.C. softwood lumber industry can come to terms with the U.S. on an agreement and it’s one that’s still in limbo,” says CKNW Business Analyst Robert Levy.
“They’re going up against lobby groups that want to see protectionist policies because what it’ll do for them is if they restrict B.C. softwood lumber, raise the price of lumber in that market, they’re basically cutting off supply so they can sell their lumber for a higher price.”
In a statement, B.C. forests minister Steve Thomson says the province is disappointed in the petition and are encouraging the U.S. government to review previous cases of the allegations.
What the future holds
B.C.’s lumber industry says it’s too soon to say how much-renewed hostility with the U.S. over softwood lumber could cost producers.
B.C. Lumber Trade Council president Susan Yurkovich says they’re still reviewing the U.S.’s complex trade litigation filing.
“We have to wait and see how this thing plays out. I think there’s still an opportunity to continue to have dialogue towards a new agreement, we’ll have to see what the duties are in place before we can understand what the full impact is to the industry.”
Yurkovich says Canada won multiple appeals against the U.S. on the issue before the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement was filed and expects a similar result.
She adds in the time since B.C. has shifted about 30 per cent of its exports to Asia.
NDP leader weighs in
Meanwhile, the leader of the B.C. NDP is accusing the province of letting the softwood file slide.
John Horgan says the premier shouldn’t have waited until things deteriorated this far to flex some provincial muscle.
He says B.C. has its own treaties – like those controlling water rights – it could use to pressure the U.S.
“We have mechanisms at our disposal here in British Columbia. We’re part of the Columbia River treaty, which is providing benefits to both sides of the border. We’re not without our tools to catch the attention of the United States.”
Horgan says the Premier Christy Clark promised to make softwood lumber her top priority but has now left it to trade lawyers to resolve.
With files from Simon Little