Softwood lumber decision coming April 25

MONTREAL — The U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday it will announce on April 25 whether it will impose the first of two duties on Canadian softwood.

A spokesman for the department said any countervailing duties would be applied on imports about a week later. A decision on anti-dumping duties is expected to be released May 5, but could be delayed.

Analyst Paul Quinn of RBC Capital Markets said he anticipates the Americans will impose “shock and awe” duties in the range of 30 to 40 per cent.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the preliminary rates come out really high,” he said from Vancouver.

Softwood lumber prices have been rising sharply in anticipation of hefty duties. Quinn said he expects the prices will offset the combined duties as demand picks up during the peak home construction season.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in the House of Commons that she spoke about the softwood lumber issue Thursday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“We’ll not let the threat of countervailing duties weaken our negotiating position,” she said. “We’re looking for a good deal, not just any deal.”

The U.S. Lumber Coalition formally petitioned the American government to impose duties last November complaining that Canadian lumber producers are unfairly subsidized — something softwood producers in Canada dispute.

Forestry companies throughout Canada have said hundreds if not thousands of sawmill jobs are at risk if the U.S. imposes duties on Canadian softwood.

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