The Canadian government is threatening multiple trade actions against the United States in retaliation for duties on softwood lumber, demanding a long-term deal without which several American industries could soon be targeted.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched the first salvo in a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark, informing her that he’s seriously considering her request for a ban on thermal coal exports and that it’s being explored by federal trade officials.
Clark, who is currently campaigning for another term as B.C. premier, was quick to release a statement responding to Trudeau’s letter.
“I would like to thank Prime Minister Trudeau for his quick action to look at banning thermal coal exports through British Columbia and his commitment to stand up for B.C. and Canadian forest workers,” she said.
About 94 per cent of the thermal coal shipped through the province comes from the United States and is bound for Asia, but Alberta also ships it to B.C.’s coast.
The second threat: possible duties against Oregon industries. That’s the home state of a Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, who has been a hardliner on the lumber dispute.
The Canadian government has found several Oregon business-assistance programs it says may constitute illegal subsidies. It’s considering a process that could lead to retaliatory duties on imports from that state’s products, such as plywood, flooring, wood chips, packaging material and wine.
Two government sources told The Canadian Press the threat has nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump; they say it’s a one-off, specific action related to one dispute, and one Democratic senator in one state.
They say a long-term deal on softwood lumber would be the best way to prevent the dispute from escalating.
“We hope we don’t have to act,” one source told The Canadian Press, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss matters not yet made public. “We hope this dispute can be resolved.”