B.C. Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston is calling on British Columbians to ‘fight back’ against recent attacks by U.S. President Donald Trump against Canadian industries. The latest target of Trump’s anger over trade deals is Canada’s lumber industry, which is mostly based in British Columbia.
“Canada has treated our Agricultural business and Farmers very poorly for a very long period of time,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us. Do Timber & Lumber in U.S.?”
The calls for a move away from Canadian wood products come in the midst of a showdown over the North America Free Trade Agreement.
Trump repeated himself this week when he said that NAFTA has been a terrible deal for the United States, while its North American trading partners make “many billions of dollars” at the expense of Americans.
The Softwood Lumber Agreement between the United States and Canada expired on October 12, 2015 and the two sides have not been able to reach a new deal. Friday’s tweet from Trump makes it seem like a new deal between the sides would be nearly impossible.
“We have really been treated with a lack of respect that belies our historic ties with the United States over many, many years,” said Ralston. “The way to deal with these things is through NAFTA and this case this seems to be an effort to draw in an issue that is not related directly to NAFTA.”
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Canada’s softwood lumber sector has been dealing with the latest U.S. tariffs to hit the industry for nearly a year, handing more than $200 million in 2017 to cover duties of about 20 per cent of the value of all exports.
Ralston has been working with federal negotiators to try to iron out a new softwood lumber deal. But one thing that has helped the industry, even without a deal, has been soaring demand for lumber from the booming U.S. housing construction sector, where housing starts are higher than they have been in a decade. This has helped push prices to hover near a record highs at US$658 per thousand board feet, according to Madison’s Reporter.
“It’s not entirely dissimilar with steel,” said RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen. “Steel prices were already rising before the U.S. imposed tariffs because of the stronger global economy and the stronger industrial sector across North America.”
Soon after being sworn in as premier last summer, John Horgan travelled to Washington to meet with senior members of Trump’s cabinet. Since that meeting, the two sides have grown apart on a possible deal.
“We have to stand up and vigorously defend ourselves,” said Ralston. “And in the case of the forest industry, it’s a foundation industry to British Columbia, 60,000 direct jobs in over 200 communities. It’s critical for the B.C. economy. We will do everything we can to support the federal government and B.C. communities and their workers and their unions that represent them to fight back.”
“The actions of the American administration, President Trump, are very disruptive, troublesome and worrisome for people across the country. I think everyone is struggling to deal with the latest tweets.”
~With files from the Canadian Press