Canada timber deal may be in place

TORONTO – Canada and the United States have hammered out a tentative agreement to end their long-standing lumber trade dispute, Canadian media and provincial politicians reported Wednesday, though federal officials denied a deal had been reached.

The framework includes a 34 percent cap on Canada’s share of the U.S. lumber market, a border tax and the return of 78 percent of the $4.3 billion in punitive duties imposed by the U.S., The Canadian Press and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported, though they gave no named sources.

Neena Moorjani, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative office, would not confirm or deny the reports.

Jennifer Chiu, a spokeswoman for Canada’s Minister of International Trade David Emerson, denied reports that an agreement had been reached.

“There’s no deal,” she said by telephone from Ottawa. “It’s all speculation.”

Ontario’s Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay, however, told the Legislature on Wednesday that the province’s negotiators in Washington had confirmed an agreement was nearly complete. But he said Ontario would be shortchanged by the deal as it would allow British Columbia to increase the volume of its lumber trade to the United States, but reduce Ontario’s share.

Ramsay said he would be registering his displeasure with Prime Minster Stephen Harper and Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador in Washington, D.C.

A similar agreement was reached in 2003, but fell apart after some provinces balked.

Canada and the United States have been battling over softwood lumber for three decades.

The U.S. imposed antidumping and countervailing duties totaling more than 27 percent in May 2002 after accusing Canada of subsidizing its lumber industry. The reductions since then have cut duties in both categories roughly in half; Canadian lumber exporters have paid more than $4.3 billion during the period.

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