MONTREAL — U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter a day after imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum to call out Canada’s softwood lumber industry, a sector that could provide insight for others on resilience in the face of U.S. tariffs.
Trump criticized Canada’s softwood lumber and agriculture policies, using them as examples of how America is being treated poorly by Canada.
Canada’s softwood lumber sector has been dealing with the latest U.S. tariffs to hit the industry for nearly a year, handing over more than $200 million in 2017 to cover duties of about 20 per cent of the value of all exports.
Hundreds of millions more is expected to be deposited in 2018 as well.
However, the Canadian industry has been less damaged than had been anticipated as duties imposed by the U.S. government have been passed on to U.S. consumers in the form of higher prices.
Soaring demand for lumber from the booming U.S. housing construction sector, where housing starts were higher than they have been in a decade last year, has helped pushed prices to record highs.
RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen says the same forces could be at play with tariffs on steel and aluminum as a strong global economy and North American industrial sector could absorb prices that already increased when the first tariffs were imposed on several countries.
The federal government said Thursday that it would impose dollar-for-dollar counter-tariffs on $16.6 billion worth of United States goods in response to exemptions for Canada, Mexico and Europe from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.
Janzen says the steel and aluminum tariffs are a unique result of Trump policies whereas softwood lumber has been an irritant for several administrations of both political parties.
International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says he doesn’t want to compare the softwood lumber and metals industries, even though both key sectors of the Canadian economy face import tariffs.