Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trump's Trade Actions Bring Uncertainty to Canadian Lumber Country

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trump's Trade Actions Bring Uncertainty to Canadian Lumber Country

Article excerpt

Trump's trade actions echo in lumber country

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MADAWASKA, Ont. - It didn't take long for Donald Trump's new tariffs on softwood lumber to echo in Ontario's Madawaska Valley -- a forestry-dependent area almost exactly 1,000 kilometres due north of the U.S. capital.

The unease settling into the region, which is dotted by sawmills vital to the local economy, is not only tied to the U.S. president's move this week to impose retroactive duties averaging 20 per cent.

There are also fears about what might come next from the Trump administration.

Some believe another wave of bad news could come in the form of a separate anti-dumping duty on softwood, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement or a proposed border tax on all imported goods.

"All of these communities are dependent on the forest-products industry, even if people aren't working directly in the sawmills or in the bush," said Ted Murray, vice-president of the 115-year-old Murray Brothers Lumber Company in Madawaska, about 220 kilometres west of Ottawa.

"Employees and just regular folks in the community are certainly concerned about this -- and not only this trade action but the entire sort of philosophy that the new regime in Washington seems to be putting forward."

Other regions of the country that ship more softwood south of the border may absorb bigger hits from the latest U.S. move in the long-running dispute.

But the changes are still expected to hurt the small- and medium-sized companies here, including Murray Brothers despite the firm's best efforts in recent years to soften the blow.

The company, which employs about 100 people, has lowered its inventories and shifted more of its business away from the U.S. market -- towards East Asia and the Middle East.

However, about 10 per cent of the company's softwood exports are still shipped to the U.S. and Murray expects the new duty to make such sales "pretty much unprofitable."

For the most part, he expects the bigger lumber companies with investments in the U.S. and the smaller firms with more versatility and lower costs to fare better.

Even with the challenges, he doesn't expect any layoffs at Murray Brothers, where saws buzzed Tuesday and workers stacked fresh shipments of pine boards. …

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