Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., speaks to B.C. Council of Forest Industries convention from Washington D.C., April 8, 2021. (COFI video)

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., speaks to B.C. Council of Forest Industries convention from Washington D.C., April 8, 2021. (COFI video)

Hot U.S. lumber market good for trade talks: Canadian ambassador

Biden’s COVID-19 recovery hurt by soaring house prices

A B.C. pulp mill’s ability to provide critical material for COVID-19 personal protective equipment was a big step toward resolving forestry trade issues with the U.S., and the current lumber shortage pushing up house prices is the next step, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. says.

Ambassador Kirsten Hillman spoke to the B.C. Council of Forest Industries convention Thursday, offering cautious optimism that the election of President Joe Biden on a promise of pandemic recovery and jobs represents a turning point in Canada’s 30-year dispute over softwood lumber. It hasn’t changed the insistence of the U.S. lumber industry that B.C. lumber is unfairly subsidized, but the pressure is on Biden to deliver on affordable housing and union jobs, she said.

Even before Biden replaced former president Donald Trump and his aggressive trade policies, the ability of Harmac Pacific’s Nanaimo pulp mill to provide key material to the U.S. in the early days of the pandemic got the attention of American leaders.

“The story of Harmac and the specific pulp product that it was providing to the United States was critical to certain masks and gowns and medical supplies,” Hillman said by video link from Washington D.C. April 8. “And we were able to talk to the Americans about how restricting trade and cutting supply chains between our two countries was going to in fact hurt them and hurt us both.”

Now a pressing issue for Biden is soaring lumber prices that are holding back his post-pandemic recovery plans. Supply shortages have pushed the average price of a new U.S. home by $24,000, and that has priced three million Americans out of the market, Hillman said. And there are “anecdotal reports” that U.S. builders are delaying projects from three to six months due to uncertain lumber supply as well as high prices.

RELATED: Cold comfort in U.S. reduction of lumber import duties

RELATED: Trump’s trade wars hit B.C.’s struggling forest industry

COFI president Susan Yurkovich and other B.C. industry players have been involved for many years in trade disputes, with appeals currently in progress under NAFTA and new U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreements. Trump’s administration neutralized the NAFTA appeal process by refusing to appoint new members, and agreeing on impartial arbitrators will take time, Hillman cautioned.

Meanwhile, a World Trade Organization panel ruled in Canada’s favour in the long-running dispute, and the U.S. Commerce Department has reduced duties on Canadian lumber to about nine per cent on average, less than half of what was imposed on behalf American producers in the most recent trade action against Canada.

B.C. Forests Minister Katrine Conroy told the convention the high price of lumber has helped B.C. mills restart and recover from a slump in prices and log shortages, and B.C.’s efforts to promote mass timber technology are helping producers “get more from less” after a loss of allowable cut in the wake of widespread beetle epidemics.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirusforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada says the Eastern Fraser Valley will enjoy plenty of sunshine this week. (Black Press News File)
Sunny weather to stay around all week in Eastern Fraser Valley

Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Hope all forecasted for a week free of rainfall

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld has called for the resignation of B.C.’s Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside. He made the call during a speech in Vancouver on April 10, 2021, in a rally for a parent embroiled in legal battles surrounding his child’s transition.
Chilliwack school trustee calls for B.C.’s minister of education to resign

Barry Neufeld spoke at rally for jailed father in Vancouver, calling SOGI 123 a ‘dangerous experiment’

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

People stroll through rows of tulips in bloom during the Tulips of the Valley Festival on May 2, 2017. The colourful spring event, now called Chilliwack Tulips, opens on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack tulip attraction open this weekend after being closed last year due to COVID-19

More than 6.5 million bulbs in all at this year’s colourful Chilliwack Tulips event

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Most Read