Maine sawmills and timber harvesters could benefit if President-elect Donald Trump goes through with a draft plan to aggressively renegotiate trade terms for competing softwood lumber imported from Canada.
A Trump transition team memo obtained by CNN last month calls for the United States to renegotiate or withdraw entirely from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which fosters trade with Canada and Mexico.
The memo has raised fears in Canada that hefty U.S. duties may be slapped on Canadian timber exports early next year, hammering an industry that exports 70 percent of its production to the United States. The lumber – boards, beams, planks, and framing made from spruce, fir, pine and other softwood trees – is primarily used in home and building construction, and could become more costly for U.S. consumers if duties were imposed. However, while retail lumber prices might rise, Maine’s lumber industry could flourish.
U.S. lumber interests have alleged that Canadian firms have an unfair advantage because they cut most of the wood in provincial public forests, where they allegedly pay below market prices. They say the practice adversely affects sawmills and wood products makers that support the employment of 11,000 Mainers.
“If we have a level playing field where subsidies don’t exist or are neutralized through a (tariff) agreement, we feel there will be opportunities to expand production in Maine and the U.S.,” says Jason Brochu, co-president of Pleasant River Lumber, which employs 300 at sawmills in Dover-Foxcroft, Jackman, Hancock and Sanford. “We think there shouldn’t be any situation where for reasons that are beyond regular market forces that anybody is able to ship more.”
From the Portland Press Herald: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/11/trumps-get-tough-trade-plan-could-benefit-maine-forest-industry/