'A drain on businesses': N.S. lumber producer pleased to see tariffs gone
Producers had been paying a 19.88% tariff on Nova Scotia softwood forest products shipped into U.S.
Nova Scotia has emerged out from under a softwood lumber tariff imposed in May after the U.S. Commerce Department decided Thursday to exclude the province as it moved to finalize duties against several Canadian firms.
It's a decision that was expected but is nonetheless being welcomed by one Nova Scotia forestry industry executive.
"We've proved that we are a market-based industry in the past and we've gotten an exclusion in the past, so why would we not this time around?" said Robin Wilber, the president of Elmsdale Lumber, which employs about 50 people directly.
On Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department announced it will impose finalized softwood lumber import duties on several forestry companies, citing concerns that Canada was providing them with "unfair subsidies."
However, softwood lumber products certified by the Atlantic Lumber Board as coming from logs harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, are excluded.
Wilber said the decision is proof Nova Scotia producers compete on a level playing field with American producers.
On May 1, a 19.88 per cent tariff was imposed on Nova Scotia softwood forest products shipped into the U.S. The duty ended a three-decade-old exemption that had recognized Atlantic Canada's forest industry is not subsidized.
"Any business that has to pay close to 20 per cent tax on their products being sold anywhere in the world is for sure a drain on businesses. Most businesses don't make 20 per cent as a profit," said Wilber.
Premier Stephen McNeil said the decision by the Commerce Department to lift the duty is a relief.
"With all of the negotiations going on, we were certainly happy to see it finally put behind us," he said.
McNeil said he would have liked to have seen New Brunswick included in the exemption.
Support from U.S. lobby group
Nova Scotia's total softwood lumber exports to all countries last year tallied about $95 million.
The U.S. Lumber Coalition, the industry lobby group that pushed for punitive tariffs on Canadian softwood, amended its petition on April 3 and asked for Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador to be excluded from any tariffs.
The duties announced Thursday will range from almost 10 to 24 per cent.
According to the province, Nova Scotia's forestry industry supports about 11,500 direct and indirect jobs.
The U.S. Commerce Department said imports of softwood lumber from Canada in 2016 were valued at an estimated $5.66 billion US.
With files from CBC News, Paul Withers