In a recent news release, the Honourable Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, announced CAD$867 million (US$642.1 million) in measures to support forest sector workers and communities negatively affected by the punishing tariffs the United States (U.S.) introduced targeting softwood lumber.
“This action plan delivers on our pledge to take swift and reasonable action to defend out softwood lumber industry and charts a stronger future for the worker, families and communities that depend on it. We are prepared to take further action, including additional loan guarantees, to address changing market conditions,” Carr stated in a news release.
These measures include CAD$605 million (US$448 million) for federal loans and loan guarantees to help soften the blow dealt to forestry companies and to help them explore new opportunities and innovations to diversify forest products and markets, in order to promote the forest industry’s health in the long-term, as well as to raise resilience against unfair trade actions.
Additionally, CAD$260 million (US$192.5 million) has been set aside over the next three years to support and expand existing overseas markets, diversifying Canadian wood products beyond those targeted by the duties imposed by the U.S. on softwood lumber; allow indigenous communities and organisations in the forestry sector to improve their current initiatives and explore new ones; extend Work-Sharing agreements to lower layoffs; and increase support to aid the workers affected upgrade their skills and explore new opportunities in different industries.
“Our government recognises the importance of finding new markets for our forest products,” Carr said at a news conference, according to the Canadian Press. “By diversifying into a variety of markets, we will be less vulnerable to actions from any one market and today we stand with softwood companies, their employees and their communities to support good jobs to create new opportunities and ensure sustainable prosperity for generations to come.”
The support package was announced mere hours after Freeland returned from two days of meetings with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in an attempt to negotiate a new settlement. Carefully characterised as a support package and not a bailout so as to refrain from running further afoul of protectionist forces from the U.S., Carr said to the Canadian Press, “We believe that this group of measures across the sector…is an appropriate response, that is one we think will stand the test of scrutiny.”
The federal support package was well-received by the beleaguered forestry industry.
“I think that the message sent by the Canadian forestry industry was heard by the federal government,” Karl Blackburn, a spokesman for the Resolute Forest Products, based in Quebec, said to the Canadian Press. “It’s a good step in the right direction. The Canadian government is sending a strong message to the Americans who unfortunately use their laws and regulations in an abusive way against the Canadian forestry industry.”
Freeland stated that a negotiated settlement held the best outcome for Canada, and is firm in her belief that it is possible, though she implied the two sides were still far from reaching an agreement.
“At this stage, the important thing about the negotiations is that we’re talking,” she said. “We are not yet at a stage where there is anything relevant to say to Canadians beyond the fact that we’re at the table.”
Canada will not be able to file an appeal against the tariffs until early 2018 as the final determination from the U.S. government on the issue will not be made till November 2017.
The vast Canadian forest industry, which generated CAD$22 billion (US$16.3 billion) in revenue in 2016, provides and sustains more than, as of 2015, 200,000 Canadians across multiple communities in the nation, with many relying on the continued success of the industry.