Donald Trump announces 20 per cent tariff on Canadian softwood lumber

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President Donald Trump told reporters to expect a 20 per cent tariff on softwood lumber going into the U.S. from Canada.

Speaking with members of the U.S. conservative media, he said, “We’re going to be putting a 20 per cent tax on softwood lumber coming in — tariff on softwood coming into the United States from Canada,” according to Charlie Spiering of Breitbart Media.

Trump told reporters, “Canada has treated us very unfairly,” and also threatened a tax on Canada’s dairy industry, according to Trey Yingst of OANN.

U.S. trade secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed the number while speaking with Reuters on Monday evening. He said that the duties would affect $5 billion worth of softwood lumber imports from Canada.

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“It’s about 31.5 per cent of the total U.S. market, so it’s a pretty big deal in terms of the Canadian relationship,” he said.

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A Commerce Department fact sheet on the pending announcement seen by Reuters shows that West Fraser Mills will pay the highest duties at 24.12 per cent, followed by Canfor Corp. at 20.26 per cent.

Resolute FP Canada Ltd. will pay a 12.82 per cent duty, while Tolko Marketing and Sales and Tolko Industries will pay a 19.50 per cent duty and J.D. Irving Ltd, will pay 3.02 per cent.

All other Canadian producers face a 19.88 per cent duty, according to the document.

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Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, and Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed their disappointment with the announcement in a joint  statement to Global News Monday evening, noting how the decision by the Trump administration will affect people on both sides of the border.

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“This decision will negatively affect workers on both sides of the border, and will ultimately increase costs for American families who want to build or renovate homes,” the statement read. “The U.S. National Association of Home Builders has calculated that a $1,000 increase in the cost of a new house would put home ownership beyond the reach of more than 150,000 American families, and jeopardize thousands of jobs in the American home construction industry.”

They also pointed to how the Canadian government has come out ahead in softwood lumber rulings in the past.

“The Government of Canada will vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, including through litigation. In ruling after ruling since 1983, international tribunals have disproved the unfounded subsidy and injury allegations from the U.S. industry. We have prevailed in the past and we will do so again.

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The tariff is just the latest in the ongoing Canada-U.S. softwood row, which stretches back to the 1980s.

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Carr will reconvene the Federal-Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber this week to look at ways to help alleviate the burden of the tariff in Canada.

The Liberal government also says it will install some immediate actions in an attempt to ease any burdens the U.S. tariff may create including “actively working to help the forestry industry to access new markets” while also “ensuring companies take full advantage of existing financing initiatives.”

It took the federal government more than a year to announce the first of two aid packages after duties were imposed in 2001. It first gave more than $300 million in late 2002, and then $1.5 billion in November 2005, with $900 million for loan insurance to help financially strapped exporters that had more than $5 billion tied up in duties.

The dispute largely stems from the fact most Canadian lumber is harvested on government-owned land while American lumber comes mainly from private land. The American lumber lobby has long accused Canadian governments of allowing companies to cut wood for less than market prices, which they say is an unfair subsidy.

— With files from Andrew Russell, Reuters and The Canadian Press

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