Canada’s lumber trade policies are unfair: Jimmy Carter

Ex-US president Jimmy Carter has spoken out in support of the recent 20 per cent duties imposed on Canadian lumber imports.

“This belated enforcement of U.S. trade laws will help millions of private timberland owners, American forestry workers and members of their local communities by leveling the playing field in the timber industry,” Mr Carter wrote, in an opinion submitted for The Washington Post.

Mr Carter’s family owns about 1,800 acres of timberland. Most of these lumber is sold to Canadian sawmills.

His main arguments are:

–          At current harvest and production rates, America’s domestic lumber industry can supply over 84 per cent of America’s wood needs, according to data from the Western Woods Products Association. This would mean the remaining 16 per cent is reliant on imports; but currently 32 per cent of America’s lumber is imported from Canada.

–          Canada enjoys a competitive advantage because a vast majority of its forests is owned by provincial governments; which means timber can sold at any cost to stimulate their forest industry. Most of America’s timberland is privately owned, and are vulnerable to market forces.

–          The 20 per cent is justified since these lumber companies are subsidised by the Canadian government.

–          The number of Canadian-owned sawmills in the US has exploded to more than 40 in the past decade — partially because of lower labour costs in the United States.

–          Because of Canada’s unfair trade, the prices lumber companies earn today are the same as when Mr Carter was the 39th president of the United States over 35 years ago; expenses and taxes on forest management have also gone up during this time.

US and Canada have struggled with this softwood trade dispute for over 35 years. The latest Softwood Lumber Agreement expired on Oct. 12, 2015, giving Canadian producers almost unrestricted access to the U.S. softwood lumber market.

In 2015, about 70 percent of Canada’s softwood lumber exports went to the US.


Image: Delegates from Asia on a tour at a softwood sawmill in America. Credit: Softwood Export Council.