B.C. Premier Christy Clark is expressing hope the Trudeau government can overcome U.S. resistance and renew a softwood lumber deal that brought peace to Canada-U.S. trade relations a decade ago. “The last time … relations around softwood lumber went sideways, [Canada’s] whole relationship with the United States went off the rails,” Clark told reporters in Ottawa Thursday.
Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are scheduled to meet in person on Friday. The prime minister “has been absolutely steadfast in wanting to support getting this deal done, making sure that we avoid a disruption in the nation’s trade relationships,” Clark said.
The previous agreement expired Oct. 12, but included a standstill clause that prevents the U.S. from launching any trade action against Canadian producers for one year.
The original deal to revoke U.S. countervailing measures against Canadian lumber was signed in 2006 and renewed in 2012, after years of trade disputes at the World Trade Organization and an estimated 9,000 to 10,000 job losses for the Canadian industry. More than $4.5 billion in tariffs were eventually returned to Canadian exporters. Since then, export charges have been levied on Canadian products when the lumber price dropped below a certain amount.
Now, Canada’s low dollar, combined with promising U.S. housing starts, is creating new demand for the B.C. industry’s products. That’s also attracting the attention of U.S. producers, who appear uninterested in renewing the previous agreement as Canada wants.