N.B. softwood lumber duties don't come up in Maine governor's visit with Trump

Maine's governor didn't raise New Brunswick's softwood lumber concerns with President Donald Trump this week after all, a spokesperson said.

New Brunswick premier's office thought Paul LePage would raise concerns about duties

New Brunswick is fighting to regain its longtime exemption from American softwood duties. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Maine's governor didn't raise New Brunswick's softwood lumber concerns with President Donald Trump this week after all, a spokesperson said.

Paul LePage met with Trump at the White House on Wednesday and, according to the Gallant government, was supposed to make the case for exempting New Brunswick from new tariffs on softwood lumber exports.

"Our understanding is there will be a discussion at the White House tomorrow with Gov. LePage and New Brunswick's situation will be discussed," Trade Minister Roger Melanson told reporters on Tuesday.

Premier Brian Gallant's office later added that LePage's meeting would be with Trump himself.

But in response to a CBC News interview request Thursday, LePage's communications director, Peter Steele, said the topic wasn't raised.

"Softwood lumber did not come up during his visit," Steele said in an email.

"This is a very important issue to the Governor. He did speak with the premier on Tuesday and had hoped to discuss it in D.C., but just didn't get the chance."

Province exempted from duties

New Brunswick is fighting to regain its longtime exemption from U.S. softwood duties.

Historically, all Atlantic provinces were exempt from U.S. trade sanctions on forestry. But in this latest skirmish, the exemption has been applied to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, but not to New Brunswick.

Maine governor Paul LePage met with U.S. president Donald Trump on Wednesday, but they didn't talk about the case for exempting New Brunswick from tariffs on softwood lumber exports, as the province had hoped.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the volume of wood coming from government-owned Crown land in New Brunswick has reached a level where it must be considered subsidized.

The U.S. has imposed a 19 per cent countervailing tariff on all New Brunswick softwood companies except J.D. Irving Ltd., which has a three per cent rate because it persuaded the administration to investigate its subsidies individually.

Earlier this week, the U.S. imposed an additional 6.87 per cent anti-dumping duty on top of the earlier tariffs.

The three other Atlantic provinces are exempt from both duties.

Cross-border business

Melanson said Tuesday that New Brunswick was using "every tool in the toolbox" to restore the exemption, including its link to Maine.  LePagewas an early supporter of Trump.

In a June 9 letter, LePage asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to exempt all four Atlantic provinces and Quebec, arguing the forestry industry in those provinces is "seamlessly" integrated with his state.

He described "the vital importance of our cross-border trading partners and the good-paying jobs they provide."

He pointed to J.D. Irving's ownership of two of the largest sawmills in Maine and the link between the Twin Rivers pulp mill in Edmundston and its paper mill across the border in Madawaska, Maine.

There was no immediate comment from the Gallant government on the statement from LePage's office.


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