Oregon mills encouraged by tariff on Canadian softwood lumber

April 27, 2017

EMILY HOARD The News-ReviewLumber

Sawmills across Oregon have expressed support for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s ruling to impose duties on imported softwood lumber from Canada.

The department began investigating Canadian subsidization of softwood lumber in 2016. On Monday, it ordered tariffs of 3 percent to 24 percent on five Canadian companies to match the amount of subsidies they received. It also set a tariff rate of 20 percent for other Canadian lumber companies.

Steve Swanson, president and CEO of Swanson Group in Glendale, said he was very pleased with the decision, which he said will lead to more jobs in the U.S.

“It partially offsets the unfair advantage that the Canadian government gives their mills, and attempts to level the playing field,” Swanson said.

He said Canada wants unfettered access to the U.S. market and the country hasn’t only been exporting lumber, but employment as well.

“The difference is whether our workers come to work everyday or their workers come to work everyday,” Swanson said. “When we’re servicing the U.S. market, it needs to be U.S. mills first.”

As this agreement has been in the works for months, the market has already seen changes in anticipation of the tariffs, according to Swanson.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government called the tariffs unfair.

“The Government of Canada disagrees strongly with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty,” Jim Carr, the minister of natural resources, and Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs, said in a joint statement. “The accusations are baseless and unfounded.”

“This is a process that’s been underway for some time and there’s been a vast amount of information they reviewed to determine that subsidies had been placed on the Canadian government and Canadian mills,” said Todd Payne, CEO of Seneca Sawmill. “We believe this will restore an environment in which domestic manufacturers here in the U.S. can grow to their natural size without being impaired by unfairly traded imports.”

In 2016 alone, Canadian lumber mills had a one-third market penetration rate here in the U.S., Payne said, which means one in three wood boards used in U.S. projects came from Canada.

“Over time we hope to see continued and increased demand as the market and economy continues to improve from the depths of the recession,” Payne said.

The Commerce Department plans to issue a decision on the amount of Canadian dumping of softwood lumber on June 23 and a final determination about the tariffs in September.

Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement Monday evening that unfairly traded softwood lumber from Canada has hurt mill towns and millworkers in Oregon and across the U.S. for decades.

“Today’s announcement sends the message that help is on the way,” Wyden said. “But the fight to save mill jobs cannot end here — America needs continued tough trade enforcement and a durable solution to the Canadian policies that distort trade and hold American lumber businesses back from fully realizing their potential.”