'We're not naive': B.C. Forestry Minister prepares for 'challenging' softwood lumber negotiations

B.C.'s Minister of Forests Steve Thomson says he's prepared for a challenge as he works with the federal government to negotiate a new softwood lumber trade deal with the Trump administration.

The last U.S.-Canada softwood lumber deal expired in October 2015

The U.S. lumber industry argues that Canadian softwood lumber is unfairly subsidized by the government. (The Canadian Press)

B.C.'s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says he's gearing up for what could be challenging and lengthy negotiations surrounding softwood lumber trade with the United States.

Yesterday, the provincial government and the B.C. Lumber Trade Council announced they will launch a lobbying campaign to try and convince their U.S. counterparts for an equitable softwood lumber deal.

Steve Thomson told CBC's The Early Edition that he's preparing for a drawn out battle.

"We're not naive at all to the challenge," Thomson said. "We're going to be making all efforts. We have a great, collaborative working relationship with the federal government on it."

The softwood lumber industry has been one of the biggest trade disputes between the U.S. and Canada resulting in years of litigation.

The last Canada-U.S. softwood lumber trade deal expired in 2015. In 2016, the American lumber industry filed a petition asking the U.S. Department of Commerce to investigate Canadian softwood lumber shipments, claiming Canadian lumber is being sold for less than fair value.

The U.S. government is currently investigating the claims. Duties could be imposed on Canadian lumber as early as spring.

Thomson said his main argument to his U.S. counterparts is to focus on the bottom line and avoid time-consuming, costly litigation.

"The U.S. needs our lumber. They don't have enough sawmilling capacity to meet their domestic needs. We believe it's beneficial for their economy, for homeowners, for the home builders association to have a managed trade agreement.

"That's going to be our ongoing focus working with our colleagues across the country."       

Thomson said British Columbia generates about 50 per cent of Canada's softwood production.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Forestry minister prepares for softwood lumber battle