Indications are trickling in that the U.S. softwood lobby is interested in getting back to the negotiating table before May 23 when 27 per cent combined countervail and anti-dumping duties on Canadian lumber exports will start to be collected at the border.
Forests minister Mike de Jong in Prince George last week for Forest Expo said the U.S. Free Trade Lumber Coalition, a powerful lobby of southern U.S. lumber producers, had delivered a proposal to the U.S. government almost two weeks ago, though U.S. trade officials have yet to forward that proposal to either the federal or provincial government in Canada.
“That doesn’t sound to me like the actions of a government that is serious about getting back to bargaining,” said de Jong. He did say, however, that he had seen the document in question unofficially, but declined to divulge much in the way of details.
“I’m loath to get into details about a proposal that hasn’t even been officially been transmitted but it certainly includes provisions for a transitional border tax. There are a lot of differences around how that should be structured or what the rates should be,” said de Jong. But despite having seen the document, he’s still hesitant to say renewed negotiations are on the horizon. “The question is does this represent a serious attempt to re-engage or is it just more camouflage to hide the fact that no one in the U.S. really wants to get an agreement?”