Some Canadian officials are optimistic that there's room to negotiate on the Canada-U.S. lumber dispute despite the rejection of a Canadian proposal by U.S. lumber producers.
The Canadian proposal was presented to Washington by the Canadian federal government on behalf of the four lumber producing provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.You're understandably going to get various producers suggesting that something isn't enough or that they ought to negotiate differently," he said. The fact is that we still have talks going on between Ottawa and Washington and it still looks optimistic.
Jack Munro, British Columbia spokesman for the International Woodworkers of America, said it's the U.S. government and not the lumber industry coalition which will make the final decision on Oct. 9.
Canadian lumber is owned by the provincial governments. Private companies are granted Tree Farm Licenses to cut and process the timber under government- set stumpage rates.
Last year Canadian lumber exports to the United States were valued at C$4 billion with 60 percent of the product coming from British Columbia.
In a last-ditch bid to appease U.S. producers before a U.S. Commerce Department decision on the imposition of a duty on Canadian softwood imports, Canadian Trade Minister Pat Carney of Vancouver last Tuesday offered a once only" deal to try to settle the issue.
She said Canada was prepared to increase export lumber prices to the United States by about 10 percent - still a far cry from the coalition's demand for duties up to 36 percent.
However, Adam Zimmerman, head of Canadian forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel of Vancouver, said Canada may have jeopardized its negotiating position by suggesting stumpage rate increases before the Oct. 9 decision.
The U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, which represents a group of U.S. lumber companies seeking duties on Canadian lumber rejected the Canadian proposal Thursday.
Coalition spokesman Bill Lange said the Canadian offer was unacceptable. The amount of the Canadian offer is still far too low, the change won't be implemented for some time and lastly, we don't have the necessary details of how the proposal could actually work," he said.
The trade group wants a duty of up to 36 percent applied to Canadian softwood lumber. The U.S. Commerce Department will rule on the U.S. producers' claim that Canadian lumber is unfairly subsidized through low stumpage (cutting) fees.
The group contends the flood of cheap imports has driven down U.S. lumber prices and forced hundreds of mills to close and thrown 30,000 U.S. lumbermen out of work.
British Columbia forestry industry spokesmen say imposition of a U.S. 36 percent duty on Canadian lumber would seriously hurt Canadian producers.