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The U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday reduced its penalties against imports of Canadian lumber, primarily from B.C. producers, in the softwood lumber dispute.

An administrative review of countervailing and anti-dumping duties reduced the tariffs to an average of nine per cent from 20.23 per cent, which had been levied on Canadian lumber starting in 2018. The new rate will take effect when it’s posted to the commerce department’s registry.

That decision was”a step in the right direction” but doesn’t change the B.C. industry’s approach to the dispute, said Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council.

“The fact that we’re still paying duties on our lumber products sold to the U.S. market is both frustrating and disappointing,” Yurkovich said in a statement. “As we have consistently said, and as has been proven in previous rounds of litigation, the Canadian industry is not subsidized and this trade action levelled by U.S. producers is completely without merit.”

The U.S. industry’s position has remained consistent through several rounds of the softwood lumber dispute stretching back decades, which is that the province’s methods for charging stumpage — the fees for rights to cut timber on public land — does amount to a subsidy.

In its own statement, the U.S. Lumber Coalition said Tuesday’s decision understates those subsidies but reinforces that Canadian lumber producers do benefit in ways that allow them to dump product into the U.S. at below-market prices.

Yurkovich argued that demand for lumber in the U.S., particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, exceeds the capacity of its domestic industry, so American consumers wind up paying higher prices due to the punitive duties.

Link to Antidumping Duty Determination Notice

Link to Countervailing Duty Determination Notice

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