Trump admin shrugs off Canadian threat


WASHINGTON – The Trump administration says it won’t be swayed by trade threats from the Canadian government, after the northern neighbour warned it could start targeting American industries if the softwood lumber dispute drags on.

The administration’s commerce secretary issued a statement Saturday saying those threats will not influence the course of action the U.S. takes in the lumber dispute.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the decision to slap duties averaging 20 per cent on Canadian lumber was based on the facts presented — not on political calculations.

The U.S. has contended for decades that Canada’s lumber companies are unfairly subsidized through what it claims is cheap access to public land. The issue has repeatedly resulted in disputes that include duties, lawsuits, and temporary settlements.

The Canadian government now says it wants a long-term settlement — or else.

It’s preparing to target specific industries in the U.S. to put pressure on those American backing a hard line on lumber.

Government sources have told The Canadian Press that it involves two separate actions.

The first step was taken Friday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He sent a letter to the premier of B.C., announcing he was seriously considering banning U.S. coal exports from that province and that trade experts were studying it.

Sources say the next step targets the state of Oregon. The federal government has begun studying all business subsidies in that state, home to Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden. Following that, the Canada Border Services Agency could examine duties on Oregon’s plywood, wine, flooring, wood chips and packaging materials.

Ross brushed aside the threat.

“The decision to impose tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber was based on the facts presented, not on political considerations,” he said in a statement. “If any Canadian or British Columbian official wishes to present additional information (about lumber), we will consider it carefully and impartially.”

Ross called threats of retaliatory action “inappropriate” and said they will not influence any final determinations.

“We continue to believe that a negotiated settlement is in the best interests of all parties, and we are prepared to work toward that end.”