U.S. and Canada Start Lumber-Trade Talks -- Update

By Paul Vieira, Dow Jones Business News 2016-02-23

Ottawa and Washington have begun talks toward renewing a pact regarding the export of Canadian lumber to U.S. markets, Canada's trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, told lawmakers here Thursday.

Ms. Freeland said Canadian negotiators were in Washington last week to meet with their U.S. counterparts about a new lumber-trade agreement. Canada and the U.S. first signed a deal in 2006, ending a multiyear dispute between the two countries over the sale of Canadian wood products in U.S. markets.

Washington is prohibited from levying new tariffs or duties against Canadian softwood lumber producers for 12 months after the agreement expires. Unless a new agreement is reached before October this year, Washington could begin imposing tariffs on Canadian wood products.

"We are working very hard on this deal," Ms. Freeland said during the Canadian Parliament's daily question-period session. "The forestry industry is incredibly important across this country, and we are very aware of the significance of the softwood-lumber agreement and we are working very hard on it."

A spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said U.S. officials are "regularly in touch with our Canadian counterparts about a wide range of issues, including softwood lumber." He didn't elaborate.

Ms. Freeland said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the issue with President Barack Obama during their bilateral meeting in November on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila.

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