Montreal Gazette



Softwood agreement postponed: U.S. producers holler foul

U.S. lumber producers have accused Canadian companies of flooding their market with massive volumes of duty-free wood while they delay implementation of the softwood lumber agreement.

And the Americans are ready to fight back "with all guns blazing," one irate Idaho producer said yesterday.

"They have killed the market," said Dick Bennett, chairman of Bennett Forest Industries. "Canadians have been selling lumber at any price just to get it across the border."

International Trade Minister David Emerson announced yesterday that Canada and the U.S. have agreed to extend the entry-into-force date of the softwood deal to Nov. 1 in response to lumber producers' concerns here that they need more time to finalize implementation issues.

It was to go into effect Oct. 1 with a 10.8-per-cent U.S. duty being replaced by a 15-per-cent Canadian tax.

U.S. sawmillers say the new date is giving Canadian lumber companies more time to flood their market with no tax in place.

The duty is to be refunded, giving Canadians virtually duty-free access to the U.S.

Bennett said his mill is going to shut down indefinitely Oct. 9, laying off 300 people, reigniting sentiments that subsidized Canadian lumber is costing U.S. jobs.

Bennett, who is western chairperson of the U.S. lumber lobby Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, said U.S. producers intend to seek support from Congress for some form of retaliation on Canadian producers.

In a statement issued yesterday, Emerson said: "The softwood lumber agreement was negotiated in close co-operation with our softwood lumber industry and the provinces, and we are committed to implementing it in the best interests of Canada and the overwhelming majority of companies and provinces that support it.

"Our government has responded to requests from industry to allow them more time to complete complex but necessary paperwork."

Vancouver Sun