US tariffs on Canadian lumber are a “top priority for me,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng told the Standing Committee on International Trade on Friday.

Since the 1980s, the two countries have been embroiled in a softwood lumber trade dispute, with the United States claiming the Canadian industry is unfairly subsidized. The most recent agreement between Canada and the United States expired in 2015.

In 2018, former US President Donald Trump imposed a 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber, which was lowered to its current level of 9% after the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Canada. Last year.

Ng told committee members that Canada does not subsidize its lumber industry, a message his government has repeatedly repeated to US officials.

Last month, the US Department of Commerce released preliminary results of its administrative review of anti-dumping duties softwood lumber products from Canada and recommended doubling tariffs to about 9 to 18 percent.

A week before the report’s release, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai told members of the Capitol Hill Senate Finance Committee that she would “push for solutions to the lumber price problems.”

Ng told the committee on Friday that she was working on tariffs with members of the industry – as well as provincial and territorial governments and embassy officials in Washington, DC – and her government made it clear to the administration Biden that “we are ready to chat at any time.”

“As the tariffs have been collected, we are working with the (timber) sector to help them diversify and reach other markets, including Australia and the Philippines,” Ng said.

She also confirmed that her department is closely monitoring two state bills, one in New York and one in California, that limit the purchase of lumber from threatened and declining forests. She is also looking to see how the bills could affect Canadian lumber exports to the United States.

Ng told the committee that in addition to being unjustified, the tariffs constitute “a tax on the American people.”

Last month, the National Association of Home Builders in the United States expressed a similar concern.

If the administration goes ahead with the tariff increase, “it would further exacerbate the national affordability crisis … and force American homebuyers and lumber consumers to foot the bill for this action. ill-conceived protectionist “, the association said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the US Lumber Coalition says it supports a tariff increase as it would create “a game level zone.”

The US Department of Commerce will review the proposed tariff hike before it is formalized.

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