COFI Wraps Convention – Provides SLA Update
Prince George, B.C.- The Council of Forest Industries is wrapping up its conference in Vancouver and as expected, the Softwood Lumber Agreement has taken centre stage.
B.C.’s Special Envoy on this file, David Emerson, says he doesn’t want to say discussions with the U.S. are getting any smoother on this file “Because I have no thermometer on site constantly, but I will say this, the market for lumber has tightened up quite dramatically. Even today as we speak, lumber prices are up, consumer and do it yourself centres and builders are very concerned. Not so much about price, that is a factor, but they are concerned about pure availability of product.” He says while prices are very good, “Returns to southern lumber producers in particular are unprecedentedly high and the notion there is some kind of injury done by Canadian wood is, frankly, it’s farcical. The numbers are really very strong for the U.S. industry and until we actually have duties in place, even the Canadian industry is benefitting from the high prices and the anticipated potential shortages.”
He says that supply and demand could have an impact on attitudes in the U.S. “I would be shocked if some of the coalition types, and senatorial types, were as aggressive as I’ve heard them, even a few weeks ago.”
The duties are expected to be levied on the 24th of April.
Kirsten Hillman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Trade and Policy Negotiation, Global Affairs Canada, says Federal Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ambassador David MacNaughten are in regular contact with contacts in Washington “They are seeking every opportunity to find a way to get the discussions going. I think that it’s too soon to tell if that will bear fruit but they are raising that issue at every opportunity and where that might get.”
Emerson had previously said that he had hoped talks would get underway by late summer. Wilbur Ross is the U.S. Commerce Secretary, and is one of the people Canadian Government officials have been in contact with says Emerson ” While the formal negotiation is under the mandate of the U.S. Trade Representative, which we do not yet have, the person to whom the U.S T-R would report, is in the loop. It would be a stretch to say negotiations have started, I think it’s really just trying to get people’s atmospherics cleared up so that people don’t go into it from the get go thinking somehow there’s a big disaster in the U.S. industry. So people need to understand the lay of the land and I that’s what I think has been going on.”