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WASHINGTON/OTTAWA Nov 25 A group representing
the U.S. lumber industry and some of its workers on Friday
called on authorities to impose duties on Canadian softwood
lumber, reigniting a long-standing trade dispute between the two
U.S. producers complain Canadian lumber is subsidized, and
have in the past launched trade challenges that resulted in the
United States imposing billions of dollars in tariffs.
In a widely expected move, a group that includes the U.S.
Lumber Coalition petitioned the U.S. Commerce Department and the
U.S. International Trade Commission to impose duties to "offset
the harm caused to U.S. mills, workers and communities by
Canadian softwood lumber production subsidies."
The most recent round of arguments ended with a 2006 deal
that expired in October 2015. Both sides agreed to take no
action for a year after that but talks on a new agreement
stalled, opening the way for the group to act.
The prospects for more negotiations once Donald Trump
becomes president are unclear at best. Trump has vowed to tear
up or renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement,
calling it a disaster for the United States.
The Canadian government, which rejects the notion of unfair
subsidies, said it would defend the interests of workers and
"The U.S. industry is not where we need them to be. At the
same time, the protectionist climate in the U.S. does complicate
any trade negotiation, including this one," said Alex Lawrence,
spokesman for Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Exports of softwood lumber to the United States totaled
C$5.9 billion ($4.4 billion) in 2015, up from C$5.5 billion in
2014, according to Statistics Canada data.
Canada has in the past won softwood challenges against the
United States at the World Trade Organisation and under NAFTA,
only for Washington to launch new legal challenges each time.
The group that filed the petition said low-priced Canadian
exports resulted in U.S. mill closures and job losses.
Chicago Mercantile Exchange lumber futures rose by
their daily price limit of $10 per thousand board feet (tbf) to
$334.40, roughly a 1-1/2 month high.
Shares in Canadian lumber firms such as Canfor Corp
, West Fraser Timber Co and Interfor Corp
dipped on the news, dropping by up to 1 percent.
The Lumber Trade Council in the province of British Columbia
said U.S. producers could not meet domestic demand.
"(The petition) will only serve to limit access to Canadian
lumber products, driving up prices for U.S. consumers," it said
in a statement.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton in West Palm Beach, Florida;
David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago;
Writing by Susan Heavey and David Ljunggren; Editing by Andrew
Hay and Lisa Shumaker)