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US agency confirms Canada softwood lumber hurting US industry

AFP

Washington (AFP) -

A US trade body on Thursday upheld the decision to impose punitive duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports,  the latest move in a long-running trade dispute between the neighboring countries.

The US International Trade Commission said it agreed with the Commerce Department's finding last month that the lumber using in homebuilding is being dumped on the US market and harming domestic firms.

The product is "subsidized and sold in the United States at less than fair value," which "materially injured" US lumber producers, the agency said in a statement.

The decision means the lumber imports will be subject to fees to compensate for the subsidies and bring the price in line with market value, known as antidumping and countervailing duties. However, the duties will not be applied retroactively, the USITC said.

Last month, the Commerce Department announced antidumping duties ranging from 3.2 to 8.89 percent, after concluding the northern neighbor had dumped the lumber on the US market at below market value.

This was on top of previously announced countervailing duties ranging from 3.34 percent to 18.19 percent to compensate for subsidies to the industry.

While expecting the decision, Canada's lumber industry reacted angrily to the announcement.

"The ruling today, while not unexpected, is completely without merit," said Susan Yurkovich, head of the BC Lumber Trade Council.

"The ITC finding of 'injury,' despite the current record-setting profitability of the US lumber industry, makes it very clear that this was not an objective evaluation of the facts," she said.

The softwood lumber dispute is one of the largest and most enduring between the two nations. Since 1982, Canada has won four previous lumber cases against the United States.

In this latest round, one of several launched by President Donald Trump's administration, Ottawa has requested arbitration under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and formal consultations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to try to settle the row.

"We are confident that this latest decision by the USITC will again be reversed," Yurkovich said.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, meanwhile, said Ottawa would "vigorously defend our industry, workers and communities against protectionist trade measures."

She called the duties "unwarranted and troubling" and "harmful to Canada and to lumber consumers in the United States."

The United States imported $5.7 billion worth of softwood lumber from Canada last year, up from $4.5 billion in 2015.