OTTAWA, Ont. — The Maritime Lumber Bureau has grave concerns about a proposal to end the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber trade dispute.
“Our interests must be protected and our requests agreed to secure our support,” bureau president Diana Blenkhorn said. “In order to see a negotiated settlement go forward, Atlantic Canada would voluntarily agree to self-limit and self-manage our exports along historic lines. The details specific to Atlantic Canada must be made clear before we can endorse any agreement,” Blenkorn added.
The bureau, which represents lumber producers in the four Atlantic provinces, hosted a meeting Tuesday for industry and government officials to review the proposal. In it, the U.S. duties on Canadian exports would be replaced with a quota system. No duties would apply to the volume of wood exports until Canadian sources accounted for 31.5 per cent of the U.S. domestic market. Additional exports would be subject to a tariff of $200 per thousand board feet, a level the bureau said was punitive.
In Ottawa, Nova Scotia NDP MP, Peter Stoffer, urged the government to reject the proposal, which was developed by a negotiating team in Washington that included representatives from both sides.
Stoffer said the government should hang tough for rulings from the World Trade Organization that he believes will be in Canada’s favour. Rather than caving in to U.S. pressure, Canada should help Canadian firms get past the current crisis by helping them pay for the current countervailing and anti-dumping duties.
He also urged the government to retain the Maritime exemption, an element of previous softwood lumber trade agreements over the past 15 years. The region’s lumber producers pay market-driven prices for their wood since most of it is purchased from private woodlot owners, similar to the U.S. In the rest of Canada, most wood is cut on Crown own land and provincial governments set the fee for cutting it. Americans have long insisted the fees are too low and are an unfair subsidy, although in repeated trade rulings the U.S. position has failed.
Canada exports $10 billion in softwood lumber to the U.S. a year.
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