United Steelworkers Denounces Possible Increase to U.S. Softwood Duties, Calls for Reversal
The United Steelworkers union (“USW”) is shocked by reports that the U.S. Department of Commerce will reinstate higher duties on certain Canadian softwood lumber exports, in contravention of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
“On the heels of recent, encouraging developments, it is appalling to learn that the new U.S. administration might exacerbate the long-running softwood lumber dispute that has harmed workers, consumers and communities in both our countries,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.
“Under the rules of fair trade and virtually all WTO decisions on this file – including the most-recent ruling last year – there is no justification for the new U.S. administration to increase duties on Canadian exports and ratchet up this dispute,” Neumann said.
“This is not acceptable and our union is calling on the new administration to reverse this approach.”
The USW represents 14,000 forest industry workers across Canada.
Last year the union welcomed a WTO ruling in Canada’s favour in the softwood lumber dispute. Subsequent to the WTO ruling – and following the American presidential election last November – the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it was reducing tariffs on certain Canadian lumber products.
Since the U.S. imposed softwood lumber duties in 2017, Canada has paid more than $4 billion in duties.
“The U.S. lumber lobby in Washington continues to falsely claim that Canada’s forest industry is subsidized – a longstanding but discredited argument,” said Jeff Bromley, Chair of the USW Wood Council, representing 14,000 Canadian forest sector workers.
“In reality, our members in Canada earn higher wages and benefits, while the industry pays market-based stumpage fees to harvest timber on Crown lands,” Bromley said.
The prospect of increased U.S. duties underscores the responsibility of the Canadian government to make the softwood lumber dispute a greater priority, he added.
“More than 600 communities and tens of thousands of families across our country depend on our forestry sector, which can’t afford to take multibillion-dollar hits from unjustified duties,” Bromley said.
“The softwood lumber dispute should have been resolved during the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) negotiations, but it wasn’t,” he added. “We need our government to defend Canadian workers and communities and negotiate a fair resolution to this dispute with the new U.S. administration.”
The USW Wood Council has organized a nationwide advocacy campaign, Forestry Is for Everyone, calling on the federal government to resolve the softwood dispute and to implement a strategy to support workers and struggling forestry companies. For information on the USW campaign, go to www.forestryisforeveryone.ca.
Jeff Bromley – Chair, USW Wood Council – firstname.lastname@example.org – (250) 426-9870
Source: United Steelworkers