Ahead of NAFTA talks, U.S. sets 20 percent duties on Canadian softwood lumber

Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:27pm EDT
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will impose preliminary anti-subsidy duties averaging 20 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday, escalating a long-running trade dispute between the two neighbors.

The move, which affects some $5.66 billion worth of imports of the construction material, sets a tense tone as the two countries and Mexico prepare to renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canada denounced the U.S. action and vowed to protect its lumber interests through litigation.

News of the tariffs sent the U.S. dollar sharply up against the Canadian dollar in Asian trading to hit an almost four-month high. The Canadian currency sank to C$1.3559 to the greenback, or 73.75 U.S. cents, down from its North American close of C$1.3516, or 73.99 U.S. cents.

Ross told Reuters in a telephone interview that Canada was "already retaliating" against the United States well ahead of the lumber duties by restricting imports of U.S. highly filtered milk protein products used by cheesemakers.

President Donald Trump last week called Canada's dairy protections "unfair."

Ross said some Wisconsin dairy producers were now "losing their farms" because of the restrictions. "Apparently Canadians now are coming down and saying: 'Since you can't do it anymore, I'll buy your equipment for 5 cents on the dollar,'" he said.

U.S. lumber producers asked the Commerce Department last November under President Barack Obama to investigate what they viewed as unfair subsidies to Canadian competitors who procure their timber from government lands at cheaper rates. U.S. lumber producers generally cut timber grown on private land.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: A pile of cut logs sit on Spanish Banks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on April 26, 2006.    REUTERS/Andy Clark/File Photo