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

Spray paint was discovered at Hot Rocks. (Special to The News)
Popular Maple Ridge summer destination vandalized

Rocks discovered with spray paint along South Alouette

Police shut down 240 Street after a single vehicle accident. (The News files)
Maple Ridge man dies following crash

Police believe he went into medical distress before accident

An early morning fire forced the evacuation of a Maple Ridge apartment building on Saturday, April 3 (Deborah Hampton/Special to The News)
City of Maple Ridge thanks volunteers for response to Easter weekend blaze

Emergency Support Services volunteers stepped up to help displaced residents

A partial image from the painting Kanaka Creek by Eric Hotz, which in the exhibit at the Pitt Meadows Art Gallery.
A Study of Nature exhibition opens at Pitt Meadows Art Gallery

Eric Hotz paintings feature familiar scenes from across the Lower Mainland

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
Puppies stolen during weekend break-and-enter in South Surrey

Surrey RCMP seeking public’s assistance in locating three American Bulldog puppies

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

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

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Mounties say they “corralled” four Ford Mustangs April 4 after an officer saw the muscle cars racing down 184 Street near 53 Avenue at about 10 p.m. (File Photo)
Mounties impound four Mustangs

Surrey RCMP say they seized four cars for street racing

Most Read