Saskatchewan

U.S. 'loses trade ruling after trade ruling': Premier Wall on newest lumber dispute

There are approximately 3,000 jobs in Saskatchewan's lumber industry which could feel the pinch when the U.S. imposes tariffs on lumber exports in the coming weeks.

Sask. exporting about $114 million worth of lumber to U.S. this year

Wall said he supports the federal government in its stance on the newest softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., calling it 'firm.' (Trent Peppler/CBC)

For the fifth time since the 1980s, Canada and the U.S. are once again caught in the midst of a lumber dispute. 

Premier Brad Wall says while the incoming tariffs on Canadian lumber exports to the U.S., which will range from three to 24 per cent, are serious — they're not unexpected. 

"When this has happened in the past, Americans lose trade ruling after trade ruling," Wall said. 

Wall joined other provincial premiers in a conference call with Prime Minster Justin Trudeau on Tuesday to discuss how the country will approach the latest lumber dispute. The premier complimented the federal approach to trade relations with our neighbours to the south.

Wall described the federal response to the U.S. as firm and said he will support that same stance.

Canada's lumber exports to the U.S. each year are valued at about $6 billion. Saskatchewan will export 225 million board feet of lumber to the U.S. this year, which is valued at approximately $114 million. 

There are approximately 3,000 jobs directly or indirectly involved with the province's lumber industry which could feel the pinch when the tariffs are imposed, which is expected in the coming weeks. 

Canadian retaliation?

One option is potential retaliatory measures against the U.S., something Wall suggested to Trudeau during the conference call.

Wall indicated the country had done something similar during the country-of-origin-labelling dispute surrounding Canadian beef.

"Their mid-term elections are only a year and a half away — we should be very strategic with the list," Wall said. 

"That might be separate from softwood lumber, because this issue, we need to negotiate but it should very much inform our approach to NAFTA."

Wall noted the U.S. has a trade surplus, when it comes to dealing with Canada.

"They have more to lose than to gain if there's going to be some sort of retaliation," Wall said, but added the country needs to have a rational approach.

The Premier said the upcoming discussions with the U.S. is an opportunity for the country to upgrade Canada's own asks, just as the U.S. is looking to do if or when NAFTA is re-opened. 

With files from Adam Hunter

now