Tolko’s Soda Creek sawmill at Williams Lake is one of many in B.C. that have reduced production or shut down in the past year. (Black Press files)

Cold comfort from U.S. softwood lumber decision, B.C. industry says

Canadian producers keep paying in ‘Groundhog Day’ dispute

A preliminary decision to reduce steep border tariffs on Canadian lumber imports is a step in the right direction, but a long way from relief for the struggling B.C. industry, the B.C. Council of Forest Industries says.

A preliminary finding by the U.S. Commerce Department on the long-running trade dispute could cut the border duties by half, but that won’t be clear until a final adjudication in August, COFI president Susan Yurkovich said Wednesday.

And the ruling is for “administrative review one,” a period ending in 2019 when the North American lumber industry was making its highest returns ever. “Administrative review two” began on Jan. 1, and could result in further penalties on Canada’s producers.

“It’s Groundhog Day,” Yurkovich said of the continuing claims of “dumping” and “injury” coming from U.S. producers. “We continue to keep fighting but it’s a very long process and it doesn’t provide immediate relief to our industry.”

The heaviest import duties fall on B.C.-based companies, with West Fraser facing a total of more than 23 per cent. Tolko is penalized 22 per cent and Canfor duties total more than 20 per cent, combining countervailing and anti-dumping penalties.

The latest finding has one glimmer of hope for B.C., Yurkovich said.

“The one positive is that they’re finally starting to recognize that there might be a difference for beetle-killed wood,” she said. “They had never recognized that before and they didn’t include any provision for that.”

The U.S. Lumber Coalition issued a statement indicating it is undeterred by the preliminary finding, and applauding the continued investigation.

“The U.S. softwood lumber industry is pleased that the U.S. government is fully enforcing our trade laws,” said Jason Brochu, co-chair of the U.S. coalition. “Canada’s massive subsidies to their lumber industry have caused real harm to U.S. producers and workers. The U.S. lumber industry will continue to push for the full enforcement of the U.S. trade laws during this ongoing process.”

RELATED: Company shares rise on hope of reduced U.S. penalties

RELATED: Trump’s trade wars stop WTO appeals on lumber

Another decision is expected from Canada’s appeal to the World Trade Organization, which held two hearings in 2019. The WTO has ruled in Canada’s favour in previous rounds, on U.S. claims that buying Crown-owned timber represents an unfair subsidy to Canadian construction materials.

The first round was in 1982, and the fifth remains in place in 2020.

In the meantime, companies continue to pay penalties into a U.S. government fund.

“When all of the appeals are exhausted and all of the administrative reviews are completed, in theory those cash deposits are refunded to the companies,” Yurkovich said. “It’s their business strategy. Harm your competitors rather than getting more efficient or focusing on growing the market.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP recover $80,000 worth of stolen property

Police found the property after executing two search warrants in Newton

White Rock approves scaled-up Festival of Lights for 2020

Event to run for nearly 60 days, and expand from the white rock to Oxford Street

White Rock to encourage Uber, Lyft to operate in city

South Surrey and White Rock are without ride-hailing services, for now

Annual Battle of the Badges hockey game to combat bullying in Delta schools

This year’s Battle of the Badges takes place at Sungod Arena on Pink Shirt Day (Wednesday, Feb. 26)

Trains through White Rock, Surrey could be affected by rail blockades

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Most Read