New Brunswick announces efforts to fight for continued Atlantic tariff exemption | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New Brunswick announces efforts to fight for continued Atlantic tariff exemption

April 28, 2017 - 1:51 PM

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 on this issue.

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 this week 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 long-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 anti-dumping 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 is 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 three per 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.

Mike Legere, executive director of Forest NB, said more than 20,000 New Brunswickers are employed by the forest industry.

Harry Gill, the owner of Devon Lumber in Fredericton, said the industry has to stick together to get the issue resolved.

He said if the 20 per cent duty remains in place, the future of his mill and 40 employees will be subject to whether the market can absorb the price increase.

"We'll push our way through this somehow. I know we'll make it work because we're not going to go lay down. It's what we do for a living. It's all we've ever done and we're going to keep doing it," Gill said.

Earlier this week, Danny Stillwell, owner of Hainesville Sawmill northwest of Fredericton, said his mill is shutting down because of U.S. lumber tariffs. Danny Stillwell said Thursday he's taking "a time out," at least until the dispute is resolved.

In 2001 when the last softwood dispute exploded, British Columbia alone lost 15,000 jobs from the forest industry in just a matter of months.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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