Commerce Secretary says increased tariffs on softwood lumber in the United States are “completely unjustified.”

The federal government has criticized the U.S. Department of Commerce over its plans to increase tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng says the United States has indicated it intends to raise tariffs to 13.86 percent, up from 8.05 percent.

Ng describes this move as disappointing and completely unjustified.

It’s the latest salvo in a bilateral relationship that Ottawa has described as an impediment to efforts to improve the cost and supply of housing.

Last month, Ng vowed to appeal the US International Trade Commission’s decision to keep the tariffs in place.

It says Canada will fight the tariffs by all means available, including litigation through existing trade agreements, as well as the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Court of International Trade.

watched Canada challenges ‘unjustified and unfair’ US tariffs on softwood lumber:

Canada is officially challenging “unfair” US tariffs on softwood lumber

Canada has formally launched a challenge to what it considers “unjustified and unfair” U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Dispute Resolution System.

Ng said Canada is “extremely disappointed” with the Commerce Department’s latest finding. “This action is completely unjustified.”

At the same time, she said, the federal government is ready to negotiate a solution to the dispute that has hampered Canadian-American relations for decades.

“We will continue to work closely with the provinces, territories and industry to defend Canadian interests through all available avenues,” Ng said.

“We remain ready and willing to work with the United States to reach a negotiated solution that allows for a return to predictable cross-border softwood lumber trade.”

Under the US Tariff Act, the Commerce Department determines whether goods are sold for less than fair value or if they benefit from subsidies from foreign governments.

In Canada, timber-producing provinces set so-called logging duties on timber cut from Crown land, a system that American producers – forced to pay market prices – see as an unfair subsidy.

Freshly cut wood is depicted stacked in a mill.
Freshly cut lumber is photographed stacked at a mill along the Staff River in Maple Ridge, British Columbia on April 25, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

British Columbia says the duties “harm Canadians and Americans alike.”

The British Columbia government issued a similar statement on Thursday, saying the Ministry of Commerce’s decision was “extremely disappointing.”

“The continued application of unjustified duties on softwood lumber exports from British Columbia to the United States harms Canadians and Americans alike,” said the joint statement attributed to Forestry Minister Bruce Ralston, Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey and several other officials.

“While we work with our industry partners to develop a reliable and sustainable forestry industry in British Columbia, we are continually held back by these tariffs, resulting in high prices and unstable markets on both sides of the border.”

A white man in a purple coat is talking in front of a glass window.
British Columbia Forestry Minister Bruce Ralston speaks in Vancouver on August 10, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

British Columbia Timber Trade Council Vice-President Kurt Nykedit also responded to the potential tariff increase, saying the Commerce Department “moved away from some long-standing methodologies at the request of the U.S. industry.”

“Although these rates have not yet been finalized, they continue to misrepresent reality: British Columbia and Canadian producers are neither subsidized nor dumping the U.S. market,” the statement read.

She says the tariffs increase the cost of lumber and building materials south of the border, “at a time when the shortage of affordable housing is severely impacting families across the country.”

In October, Canada welcomed a decision by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dispute panel that found aspects of how the United States calculates tariffs conflict with federal law.

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