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Canadian leader responds to lumber tariffs imposed by the US

11 May 2017

"On the issue of softwood lumber, the prime minister refuted the baseless allegations by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the decision to impose unfair duties", the statement said.

The Trump administration and US industry groups say Canada unfairly subsidizes its softwood lumber industry, putting USA companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he told Trump in a Tuesday phone call that the US commerce department levelled "baseless allegations" when it imposed new, unfair duties on Canadian softwood this week.

President Donald Trump announced his decision on the new tariff during a meeting of conservative media outlets on Monday night in the White House.

The moves come as the relationship between the two North American nations is the focus of the Great Lakes Economic Forum, being held jointly in Detroit and Windsor.

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Wilbur Ross the Commerce Secretary said in a prepared statement that it was a bad week for trade relations between the US and Canada and added that this was not the administration's idea of a Free Trade Agreement properly functioning.

The lumber and milk fall-out sets the two sides up for a wider battle as they renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Trump administration pointed out that the imports were unfairly subsidized.

The state timber industry says the new tariffs, which average 20 percent, are good news for Wisconsin loggers and sawmills that have been struggling since the new housing market crashed in 2008. Trump has called the move "a disgrace" that hurts USA producers in dairy states like Wisconsin.

"There are millions of good USA jobs that depend on the smooth flow of goods, services and people back and forth across our border", he said.

"The Prime Minister stressed that the Government of Canada will vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, as we have successfully done in all past lumber disputes with the USA".

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In a preliminary determination issued in response to a petition by the US lumber lobby, the US Department of Commerce concluded that exporters of softwood lumber from Canada received countervailable subsidies of 3.02 percent to 24.12 percent.

Lumber and dairy are longstanding irritants - and were also a problem file under previous presidents.

When MTN News spoke with RY Timber in Townsend a year ago, they were concerned that without an agreement, cheap Canadian lumber could flood the US market.

Canada's dairy sector is protected by high tariffs on imported products and controls on domestic production to support prices farmers receive. In softwood lumber, the countries have a once-a-decade cycle of tariffs, trade litigation, and ultimately settlements.

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