Nova Scotia Trade Minister Michel Samson says he believes the province will be exempt from any new duties that could be placed on Canadian softwood lumber by the U.S. government.

American sawmill operators are lobbying for a surcharge on Canadian lumber entering the U.S. because they say sawmills north of the border have access to cheap Crown timber and other government help. The Canadian government denies those claims.

“The U.S. Lumber Coalition made it clear that they recognize that Nova Scotia has been playing by the rules,” said Samson. “We have a competitive market-based system when it comes to stumpage rates on Crown land and private land, not only today but we’ve had that in the past.”

The U.S. Lumber Coalition has been pushing for the duties, but a representative confirmed to CBC News that it believes Nova Scotia is playing fair and selling its lumber at a reasonable price.

Take concerns to federal government

Samson and a delegation representing Nova Scotia’s lumber sector recently left Washington after a meeting with Canada’s ambassador to the United States and the lumber coalition.

“The question is now what is a new softwood lumber agreement going to look like with the federal government that will impact every Canadian province,” he said.

“So we’re certainly bringing our concerns directly to the federal government to have Nova Scotia maintain its exemption in any new agreement.”

A petition from the U.S. Lumber Coalition blames Canadian imports for a drop in lumber prices, which it claims has led to mill closures and job losses. The coalition is calling on the United States to impose duties to offset that damage.

Earlier this month, the U.S. International Trade Commission said it had found a reasonable indication that softwood lumber products from Canada materially injured American producers.

The preliminary finding could force U.S. importers of Canadian lumber to pay cash deposits to cover preliminary countervailing duties in early March, followed in mid-May with deposits for any anti-dumping duties, unless the deadlines are extended.