By Molly Priddy
The U.S. timber industry scored a win on April 9 in the decades-long battle with Canada over softwood lumber, after the World Trade Organization ruled in its favor.
On April 9, the WTO decided that the United States Department of Commerce had done the correct calculations when it determined anti-dumping duties on Canadian softwood lumber.
“It’s a victory for the United States and the forest products industry,” said Chuck Roady, general manager of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber, as well as the president of the Montana Wood Products Association. “It was great to see an excellent decision on our part, because the U.S. rarely prevails in the WTO.”
Softwood lumber has been the subject of an enduring trade dispute between the two countries, and the most recent Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) lapsed in 2016 after 10 years.
The roots of the dispute come down to two different forms of government having two different methods of lumber harvest. Canada’s provincial government owns the majority of timberlands that provide trees to Canadian producers, charging an administered fee. In the U.S., the timberlands are typically privately owned, and the market determines the price of those logs through public sales.
“Both systems work until you sell the lumber in the United States,” Roady said.
In November 2017, the U.S. Commerce Department determined that Canadian exporters had sold lumber in the U.S. for 3.2 percent to 8.9 percent under fair market value, and that Canada is subsidizing softwood lumber producers at rates of 3.34 percent to 18.19 percent. The department determined that Canadian lumber producers should then pay a combined tariff of 20.83 percent.
In its mixed ruling on April 9, the WTO determined that the U.S. use of “zeroing” to calculate the anti-dumping duties is not prohibited. In the past, the organization had ruled against the methodology.
The ruling also determined that the U.S. had violated international trade rules when it calculated the tariffs on softwood lumber imports, which Canada applauded.
By Ana Swanson and Damian Paletta
The Trump administration announced on Monday it is planning to impose a roughly 20 percent tariff on softwood lumber imported from Canada, in what may be the biggest trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada in over a decade.
The Obama administration began the review of trade in softwood lumber last year out of concern that Canada was subsidizing its wood industry in a way that hurt U.S. rivals. The decision to impose what are known as “countervailing duties” in retaliation for Canada’s wood subsidies, which will be announced Tuesday, is subject to a final review by the International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency that advises the government on trade policy.
The decision, however, allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to begin collecting the funds from Canadian importers immediately. Five Canadian companies were a part of the investigation, and the United States will seek to collect money from four of them retroactively for actions taken in the past 90 days, Ross said.
Ross said this could amount to $1 billion in new tariffs, as well as $250 million in retroactive collections. All other Canadian softwood lumber companies will face the same tariff of 19.88 percent going forward.
Softwood lumber is a major export of Canada, which sold $5.8 billion in lumber to the United States last year, giving it about 31.5 percent of the U.S. market. It’s the fourth largest export from Canada to the United States after oil, gas and cars.
Lumber prices continue to be robust two months in a row. Logs are also strong. Home values continue improving with relatively brisk sales and building. Industry manufacturing has improved. Recent trends of lumber, logs, home construction, and housing markets, are compared.
Statistics look quite good this month. Median home value continues to rise, mortgage rates have somewhat stabilized, unsold inventories of homes remain low, albeit creeping up, and housing starts and building permits remain consistently in the 1200s, which is an improvement. But lumber prices and log prices are a big story, along with real estate selling briskly in both Portland and Roseburg.
The log price is holding up at $720. The lumber price has also held for two months in a row, at $360. This is the highest price for studs since 2013, and before that, since 2005. 2013 was the year the snails-pace recovery began in earnest. One year earlier, in 2012, median home prices hit rock bottom ($151,600 in January, 2012). Housing starts moved from the 800’s in 2012 to 1000’s in 2013 and there was a feeling of optimism. During the midst of the Great Recession, mill production levels were at their lowest and the increased demand in 2013 raised the lumber prices. Once mill production increased from basement levels, in anticipation of increased housing starts, prices dropped again. Now we are entering a new cycle.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The hardwood industry adds $17 billion to Indiana’s economy. Since 1898, the hardwood lumber industry has relied on the human eye to detect knots and other and other imperfections as a way of determining the quality of lumber.
Despite some inefficiencies, this form of grading persisted because experts were unable to replicate the process with automation. Today, however, a Purdue University professor is reporting a major development in the industry through a new high-speed scanning system that successfully identifies external and internal wood defects.
The new automation not only shaves the amount of time it takes to grade lumber, it significantly boosts the accuracy, said Rado Gazo, a professor for the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources in Purdue’s College of Agriculture.
Global softwood lumber trade increased 12 percent year-over-year to reach a new record-high of 121 million m3 in 2016, per estimates by WRI. Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments the past seven years having increased as much as 66 percent.
Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments the past seven years having increased as much as 66 percent. While it is no surprise that China is a major driver for the dramatic rise in lumber shipments worldwide the past seven years, it is interesting to note that the US has actually increased softwood lumber imports more than China.
Canada’s forest sector is vital to a strong Canadian economy. Enhanced collaboration between federal and provincial governments will help to keep our forest sector, and the workers and communities that depend on it, strong and resilient.
Today, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Jim Carr, announced the creation of the Federal–Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber, which will share information and analysis to understand potential impacts and assess how to address the needs of affected workers and communities. Minister Carr will chair the domestic task force, while Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, leads softwood engagement with the United States.
There has been ongoing engagement with the provinces, territories and industry over the past two years as the Government of Canada has sought to negotiate a new deal with the U.S. on softwood lumber. This is the next step in our strategic approach to this issue, which strengthens our ongoing efforts on a priority file for the Government. Canada believes that a negotiated agreement that brings predictability and stability to industry on both sides of the border is the best possible outcome. The Government will continue to work closely with provinces, territories and the softwood lumber industry to vigorously defend the interests of the middle-class Canadians who depend on the industry. This work will continue outside of the task force.
The new Federal–Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber will assess current federal and provincial programming and ensure coordination of government initiatives to promote innovation, market diversification and transformation of the forest sector.
The forest sector is an important part of Canada’s economy. It directly employs more than 200,000 people across Canada. Softwood lumber exports were valued at $8.6 billion in 2015 — close to 70 percent of which was exported to the U.S.
By ROSS MAROWITS
The head of Eastern Canada’s largest lumber producer said he is confident he can demonstrate to American authorities this month that the region deserves free and unencumbered access to the U.S. market.
The forestry sectors of Ontario and Quebec are modelled after the market-based systems in the U.S., and that should convince the U.S. Commerce Department that the region doesn’t engage in the unfair trade of softwood lumber, Resolute Forest Products Inc. CEO Richard Garneau said.
“So based on this, I think that we deserve the right to have access in Central Canada – in Quebec and Ontario – to the U.S. market,” he said in an interview after Resolute released its fourth-quarter and 2016 results.
The Montreal-based company was recently selected by the U.S. Commerce Department – along with B.C. companies West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd., Canfor Corp. and Tolko Industries – to provide details on how they operate as part of its investigation into alleged unfair trade.
The producers are required to respond to a questionnaire by the end of the month. A U.S. auditor will then visit the four companies for follow-up.
Contact Hakan Ekstrom, Wood Resources International LLC
China imported record-high volumes of softwood lumber in 2016 and softwood log imports reached their second highest level on record. Despite relatively pessimistic forecasts for wood demand early in 2016, China’s need for imported wood picked up during the summer and fall with import volumes of both logs and lumber being up about 20% in the 4Q/16 as compared to the 4Q/15. Total importation of logs and lumber (in roundwood equivalents) reached almost 76 million m3 in 2016, which was up 17% from 2015, and almost 38% higher than five years ago, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ).
Over the past decade, the importation of softwood lumber has grown much faster than that of softwood logs. From 2006 to 2016, lumber imports were up from just over two million m3 to over 21 million m3, while log import volumes were up from 20 million m3 to 34 million m3 during the same period.
From 2015 to 2016, Russia has increased its shipments of lumber to China by over three million to a total of 11.6 million m3 (this includes logs that have been canted to avoid log export taxes). With lumber markets in the Middle East and Northern Africa (the MENA countries) and Europe having been relatively weak the past few years, many sawmills in the Nordic countries have increased their presence in the Chinese market with shipments being up over 35% in 2016 from the previous year. Although lumber supply from Finland and Sweden still account for only six percent of the total lumber imports, the share can be expected to increase in the coming years because of more intense marketing of predominantly higher-quality spruce lumber for the Chinese furniture, millwork and construction industries.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled there is a reasonable indication that softwood lumber imports from Canada materially injure the U.S. industry. How significant is this ruling to the trade dispute between the two countries? Joshua Zaret, senior industry analyst for packaging, paper and paper products, Bloomberg Intelligence speaks on The Daily Brief. (Source: Bloomberg)
The standstill agreement on softwood lumber trade expired recently, leaving Canadians holding their breath for the U.S. Lumber Coalition to launch legal proceedings.
In the calm before the storm of the next Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute, speculation about how the issue will unfold has crystallized around two options: a tax or a quota. The differences may appear merely technical, but they would mean vastly different things economically.
While a quota would impose a cap on exports to the United States, a tax would allow the level of exports to fluctuate with U.S. consumers’ willingness to pay for Canadian lumber. In other words, as U.S. lumber prices increase, Canadian lumber would still be able to enter the U.S. market to meet demand.