The one-year halt on the United States lumber industry’s ability to take legal action against Canadian softwood lumber producers passed last week, with no agreement struck yet.
Last October, the most recent Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) of 2006 between the two northern countries expired, granting a one-year peace term for negotiations to take place before any trade investigations could be launched.
Oneil Carlier, Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA and Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, said at this point negotiations are “kind of” on hold, but there’s still a slim hope that a deal might be made before the end of President Obama’s term.
“We’re keeping contact with my counterparts, and other provinces as well, to make sure we pull together and ensure we get a deal that’s at least as good as the past one, and maybe even better for our industry,” Carlier said.
Contention over lumber has been ongoing for years, and the former agreement was only one in a string of past deals. There have been four major disputes since 1982.
SLAs are the result of two major lumber exporting nations competing over market shares for decades.
US lumber companies complain that Canadian producers have a competitive edge, due to government subsidization of forest land. As such, US companies in the past have launched trade investigations, and depending on findings of the investigations, impose countervailing duties to bring the goods back up to a fair market price.
Softwood Lumber Agreements outline terms that both countries agreed on, the 2006 deal setting a combination of quotas and tax levels.
Millar Western and West Fraser both declined to comment due to the sensitive nature of ongoing trade negotiations, saying they’re referring all SLA inquiries to the Alberta Forest Product Association (AFPA).
The AFPA would not comment in an interview, but released a statement saying, “We are encouraged that, even though the standstill period has expired, negotiations continue.”
At this point, Carlier said he knows of no lawsuit being filed by US lumber companies.
On Oct. 12, the one-year anniversary of the expiration of the 2006 SLA, a joint statement was released by Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, and Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative.
“While our engagement has yet to produce a new agreement, our governments will continue negotiations though the standstill period has expired,” the statement read. “In those negotiations, we will work to meet the mandate agreed to by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when they met in Ottawa in June—a new agreement that is designed to maintain Canadian exports at or below an agreed-upon U.S. market share to be negotiated, with the stability, consistency and flexibility necessary to achieve the confidence of both industries.”