June 26, 2017 7:14 pm

New Brunswick hoping for ‘fair deal’ on softwood exemption

Nova Scotia softwood producers have cut ties with their New Brunswick counterparts in the ongoing softwood lumber dispute with the United States. Global’s Adrienne South reports.

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New Brunswick softwood lumber experts say the provincial industry is still hoping to reach a “fair deal,” despite Nova Scotia going their own way on countervailing tariff exemption negotiations.

Forest NB Executive Director Mike Legere  said he’s “optimistic” New Brunswick is getting the pieces into place to commence negotiations.  He said it’s “essential” to get back to negotiations as soon as possible.

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“I think every jurisdiction is going to look to protect their industry as they see fit in the best possible fashion,” Legere said.  “I don’t think Nova Scotia is taking a completely different approach than an Atlantic exemption, comments that I’ve heard to date is there’s still much support for a regional exemption from countervailing duty and anti-dumping tariffs.”

Legere said if things go through the appeal process, everyone is going to have to defend their position.

“New Brunswick, we feel confident that we have a good justifiable position with regard to fair market value and what we pay for stumpage here,” Legere said.

“A fair deal is obviously all we’re asking for and we’re still optimistic that we’re going to see some renewed engagement with the Department of Commerce,” Legere said.

He said he believes the government has “shown a good effort” to re-engage with the department.

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“We’re just asking that they get back to the table, re-negotiate a settlement that will include the traditional exemption from Atlantic producers from these tariffs,” Legere said. “That’s paramount, that’s so important to our industry here in order to remain competitive and to remain viable.”

In an e-mail statement to Global News, New Brunswick Trade Minister Roger Melanson said the province is closely following the actions of other jurisdictions, but said the Gallant government is working in partnership with the New Brunswick softwood lumber industry and the Federal government.

Melanson said the province wants to ensure the “best possible outcome” in regards to the softwood lumber dispute.

“As you know, New Brunswick recently appointed a special envoy on trade and softwood lumber to advocate on our behalf in Washington on this very issue. Softwood lumber is an important product that New Brunswick businesses export and American families need. As a government we will continue to communicate this to decision makers in the U.S.,” Melanson said.

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He said the province’s softwood lumber industry contributes more than $1.45 billion to the provincial economy each year and employs more than 22,000 people.

“We are exploring every avenue possible to ensure a fair deal for New Brunswick, in support of New Brunswick families and communities,” said Melanson in the statement.

Legere said having former U.S Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins represent and advocate on behalf of New Brunswick softwood lumber producers and the government, is instrumental.

“This is a Washington insider,” Legere said.  “He’s been through this before, it’s not his first time dealing with this issue.  We think he’s going to provide good value and good service for New Brunswick and the sector.”

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