Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad has added responsibility for forests to his duties. (Black Press files)

U.S. adds another border tax to B.C. lumber

Minister says work continues through B.C. instability

The B.C. government’s minority turmoil won’t affect the effort to support the province’s forest industry and negotiate a new softwood lumber agreement, Forests Minister John Rustad says.

In his first days since adding responsibility for forests to his aboriginal relations portfolio, Rustad was responding to the U.S. Commerce Department’s announcement Monday that anti-dumping duties are being imposed on top of countervailing duties imposed earlier.

The anti-dumping duty adds almost seven per cent more to the nearly 20 per cent duty imposed on most sources of Canadian lumber exports to the U.S. For companies specifically reviewed by U.S. trade officials, the anti-dumping rate is 7.72 per cent on Canfor, 7.53 per cent on Tolko, 6.76 per cent on West Fraser, 4.59 per cent on Quebec-based Resolute and 6.87 for all others.

Rustad was named forests minister last week as long-serving minister Steve Thomson was elected speaker in a job that may last only a week, with a confidence vote in the B.C. Liberal government expected on Thursday.

Rustad said the government is prepared to buy lumber for future government projects while it argues its case with the U.S. at the negotiating table or in the courts, but that won’t happen immediately. Premier Christy Clark proposed the purchase option during the recent election campaign.

Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council, said the latest duty continues efforts of the U.S. lumber industry to restrict imports and drive up the price of their products.

“The ongoing allegations levelled by the U.S. industry are without merit,” Yurkovich said. “This was proven in the last round of litigation and we fully expect it will be again.”

U.S. Lumber Coalition spokesman Zoltan van Heyningen said the anti-dumping decision is preliminary and additional investigation will be carried out by the U.S. Commerce Department.

“For years, Canada has unfairly distorted the softwood lumber market with billions of dollars in support of their producers,” van Heyningen said.

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr recently announced a support package for forest companies facing the fifth round of U.S. duties, including loans and loan guarantees to help companies keep running. Loans would be at market interest rates and do not constitute a subsidy, he said.