New Brunswick

Gallant takes free trade, softwood lumber arguments to Washington

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant is heading to Washington for a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. to talk trade.

Premier wants province excluded from duties on softwood lumber exports to U.S.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant says the meeting in Washington will focus on softwood lumber and the North American Free Trade Agreement. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant is heading to Washington for a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. to talk trade.

Ross is a senior member of President Donald Trump's cabinet and responsible for negotiating the softwood lumber agreement.

Gallant said the meeting will focus on softwood lumber and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

New Brunswick is Canada's most export-oriented province, so robust trade between the United States and Canada is crucial for our economy.- Brian Gallant, New Brunswick Premier

"New Brunswick is Canada's most export-oriented province, so robust trade between the United States and Canada is crucial for our economy," Gallant said in a statement.

The premier wants New Brunswick excluded from countervailing duties on softwood lumber exports to the United States.

Anti-dumping tariffs

Last month, the U.S. Commerce Department hit Canada with an additional 6.87 per cent in preliminary average anti-dumping tariffs, leaving the industry facing average duties of about 27 per cent.

The decision exempts three Atlantic provinces, but New Brunswick — exempt from such tariffs in the past — is not excluded this time.

Softwood lumber contributes more than $1.45 billion to the New Brunswick economy each year and employs more than 22,000 people.

While most softwood lumber exporters in New Brunswick would be paying a combined rate of about 27 per cent, it would be about 10 per cent for J.D. Irving Ltd., which was hit with a three per cent countervailing duty in April's preliminary ruling.

Former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins has been hired as New Brunswick's special envoy on the softwood trade dispute. (CBC)

Former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins has been hired as New Brunswick's special envoy on the softwood trade dispute. He will be part of Wednesday's meeting.

Gallant and other premiers were in Washington in early June to meet with government officials on the softwood lumber issue. 

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard expressed cautious optimism after a separate discussion with the U.S. commerce secretary about various trade-related irritants late last month.