The U.S. Commerce Department is taking steps to increase preliminary tariffs on softwood lumber imports from Canada.
If finalized, the higher import tariffs would raise producer costs and cut into their profits but are unlikely to impact the prices consumers pay for wood products, analysts say.
The department's recommendation to more than double the “all others” preliminary countervailing and anti-dumping rate to 18.32% from 8.99% has drawn criticism from the Canadian government and industry and applause from the lumber industry south of the border.
The increase is unlikely to result in higher lumber prices because they've already more than doubled in the past year to record highs. Because it's a preliminary tariff rate, current cash deposit rates will continue to apply until the finalized rates are published, likely this November.
“U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber products are a tax on the American people,” said Mary Ng, Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, in a written statement. “We will keep challenging these unwarranted and damaging duties through all available avenues.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump's administration imposed a 20% “all others” tariff on Canadian softwood lumber in 2018, before the Covid-19 pandemic, but lowered it to about 9% late last year after a decision favouring Canada by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In a news release, the U.S. Lumber Coalition applauded the Commerce Department's commitment to enforce trade laws against “subsidized and unfairly traded” Canadian lumber imports. The coalition said the U.S. industry remains open to a new U.S.-Canada softwood lumber trade agreement “if and when” Canada demonstrates it is serious about negotiations.