Canadian softwood lumber executives will meet this week with America’s trade ambassador as they brace for the prospect of U.S. tariffs that they say could result in mill closures and layoffs.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will speak with the Canadian lumber industry in Toronto on Wednesday, days before U.S. producers could start petitioning Washington to impose new duties on Canadian softwood.
“I think it’s an opportunity to have direct conversations with an absence of filters and I think that’s a good thing,” said Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council. She remains hopeful that a deal can be reached to avoid a protracted and costly trade war.
Following a decade of relative stability, the expiry of the 2006 softwood lumber agreement and a one-year standstill period on Oct. 12 is expected to push the U.S. to begin the process of imposing tariffs on Canadian lumber imports. Few industry observers expect the U.S. will budge from their quest for quotas to reduce Canada’s share of the U.S. softwood lumber market.
Canada has traditionally accounted for about one-third of the U.S. lumber market, but the U.S. is rumored to want that to gradually decrease to 22 percent, said Richard Garneau, CEO of Quebec-based Resolute Forest Products. “It will be impossible for Canada to accept that,” he said.