Three of four Atlantic Canadian provinces may win a reprieve from punishing trade duties being imposed by the United States government on Canadian lumber.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross issued a statement that shipments of softwood lumber from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador should be excluded from anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

Excluded from the statement was any mention of New Brunswick, which last month appointed a special envoy to the U.S. in effort to secure a favourable deal in the tariff dispute. 

"I am pleased to announce that my staff has determined the exclusion of these products is appropriate," Ross said in a statement.

"The U.S. petitioners and other parties support this determination; it of course will be subject to further comment on the record. A final decision on the matter is expected by late summer."

Preliminary investigation

On May 1, softwood from the region — for the first time in decades — was lumped in with the rest of Canada as the U.S. imposed a 20 per cent duty at the border.

Ross said a preliminary investigation concluded a 30-year-old exemption should be returned for three of the Atlantic provinces.

The Americans took a second look at the request of the Canadian government and its own lumber industry, which accepts that logs harvested in the three provinces are not subsidized and cause no economic hardship.

End in sight

For sawmill operators, like Robin Wilber of Elmsdale Lumber in Nova Scotia, an end is in sight.

"This is huge. This is wonderful," Wilber told CBC News.

Cash border collections will continue until a final determination is made in September. If it is upheld, the money will be refunded.

"We'd have liked to have gotten an exclusion as of now, but realistically I don't think anybody was thinking that was going to happen," said Wilber.

"Realistically we were hopeful to get what we got, which was a promise."