Canadian loggers face new export tariffs

Washington expected to announce more tariffs against Canadian softwood

The United States imposed an extra duty of 12.57 per cent on Canadian softwood lumber exports Wednesday, said International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew.

The move was expected, and comes on top of the 19 per cent tariff imposed earlier this year. The U.S. says the Canadian government unfairly subsidizes the industry by allowing producers to cut trees on government-owned lands.

"(U.S. secretary of commerce) Don Evans called me last night and confirmed that the anti-dumping tariff of about 12 to 13 per cent will be applied," said Pettigrew.

Situation grim for industry

In British Columbia, Canada's biggest lumber producer, hopes that the measure would have been averted turned to fears that thousands more jobs will disappear.

Squamish resident Cheryl Bass called the scene of a dozen idle logging trucks in a gravel parking lot depressing.

"This lot should be empty," she said. "There should be no logging trucks sitting in here."

Thousands out of work

Bass works for a log-sorting firm, which has already laid off 75 workers because logging operations in the area are slowing to a crawl.

"We don't know when we're going to get back to work," she said. "For mill people, they don't know if they're going to get back to work."

About 15,000 forestry workers have been laid off in B.C., mostly because of the tariffs imposed in the summer by the United States.

Logging giant Interfor, which has temporarily shut down its sawmill in Squamish, says only a radical overhaul of Canadian government policies will end this decades-old trade war.

"If we continue on the same course, those mills will be gone," said Interfor spokesman Steve Crombie. "We can't survive under the conditions we are in now."

The B.C. government has proposed steps to give forestry companies a freer hand in determining how they cut and process wood, as well as changes in the way timber is priced.

The hope was that the powerful U.S. lumber lobby would see that as a positive sign and back off in the fight against Canadian lumber.