Forestry workers welcome WTO decision on US softwood tariffs

Photo: Eikenhein/Wikimedia Commons

The United Steelworkers union (USW) welcomes the latest decision in Canada’s favour from the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the long-standing U.S. softwood lumber dispute.

“Now is the time to settle a dispute that has denied fair access to the U.S. market,” said Jeff Bromley, Chair of the USW Wood Council, representing 14,000 forest industry workers across Canada.

 

The WTO dispute-resolution panel found that the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC) acted inconsistently by failing to provide a reasoned and adequate explanation for why the U.S. rejected Canada’s proposed regional benchmarks for stumpage rates.

 

The panel upholds Canada’s claim that USDOC made errors in determining the benchmark Canadian timber prices used to determine whether Canadian producers were paying adequate stumpage fees to the provinces.

 

“It is reassuring to see that the WTO agreed with almost all aspects of Canada’s appeal. We have always maintained that softwood lumber duties are based on erroneous logic and that the U.S. refuses to understand how the Canadian industry operates,” said Bromley.

 

“These duties must be removed immediately for the benefit of all forestry workers and for the future of our industry. Anything short of that is unacceptable.”

 

Since the imposition of softwood duties in 2017, Canada is estimated to have paid approximately $4 billion in duties.

 

“As the WTO pointed out, the USDOC's use of an out-of-country benchmark, in this case the Washington logs benchmark, is erroneous when assessing remuneration for standing timber provided by British Columbia to Canadian producers,” added Bromley.

 

“Decisive action is needed from Canada’s Liberal government to work to end the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S. This persistent trade dispute is not justified in an integrated market such as forestry,” he said.

 

“Right now, the best solution for workers on both sides of the border is to reach a negotiated settlement on softwood lumber and bring an end to unfair duties.”

 

For months, USW members have lobbied Members of Parliament to resolve the dispute, which has impacted communities across Canada since the expiry of the last Softwood Lumber Agreement in 2017. The USW campaign also calls on parliamentarians to improve forestry workers’ access to Employment Insurance in an era of instability.

 

“Our goal is to return forestry to the sustaining, nation-building industry it has always been,” said Bromley. “Canada depends on it and both Canada and the U.S. benefit when barriers like the softwood lumber duties are lifted.”

Source: Business Wire