Canadian Manufacturing

Major U.S. government softwood lumber decision coming next week

The U.S. Commerce Dept. will release the first of two high-impact lumber industry tariff decisions April 25; one analyst expects “shock and awe”

April 17, 2017  by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

The two decisions will have major ramifications for Canadian softwood exporters and their operations north of the border

MONTREAL—The U.S. Commerce Department said late last week it will announce whether or not it will impose the first of two duties on Canadian softwood on April 25.

A spokesman for the department said any countervailing duties would be applied on imports about a week later. Another decision on anti-dumping duties is expected to be released May 5, but could be delayed.

Analyst Paul Quinn of RBC Capital Markets said he anticipates the Americans will impose “shock and awe” duties in the range of 30 to 40 per cent.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the preliminary rates come out really high,” he said from Vancouver.


Softwood lumber prices have been rising sharply in anticipation of hefty duties. Quinn said he expects the prices will offset the combined duties as demand picks up during the peak home construction season.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in the House of Commons that she spoke about the softwood lumber issue Thursday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“We’ll not let the threat of countervailing duties weaken our negotiating position,” she said. “We’re looking for a good deal, not just any deal.”

The U.S. Lumber Coalition formally petitioned the American government to impose duties last November complaining that Canadian lumber producers are unfairly subsidized—something softwood producers in Canada dispute.

Forestry companies throughout Canada have said hundreds if not thousands of sawmill jobs are at risk if the U.S. imposes duties on Canadian softwood.