Softwood lumber dispute fires up trade fight between Canada, US

OTTAWA: The United States and Canada faced off in a renewed battle over softwood lumber that threatened to spill over into multiple other sectors, though President Donald Trump said he did not fear a trade war.
Canada vowed to resist Washington’s move on Monday to impose tariffs on lumber that mostly feeds US homebuilding, noting trade authorities have consistently sided with Ottawa in the long-standing dispute.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Trump on Tuesday to reject “the baseless allegations” against Canada’s industry and the “unfair decision” to impose tariffs, said a statement from Trudeau’s office.
“The Prime Minister stressed the government of Canada will vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry,” said the statement, which nevertheless added both men agreed that a negotiated settlement was important.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday called Canada a close ally, but said that did not mean Canadians do not have to play by the rules. Ross said that while no immediate further actions were being contemplated, the disputes point to the need to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement sooner rather than later.
A White House statement said the two leaders had a “very amicable call” about lumber imports and the US-Canada dairy trade.
The heated rhetoric came amid fresh attacks from the US president against Canada’s dairy industry, and just two months after the two leaders held a warm meeting where Trump said the bilateral trade relationship only needed “tweaking.”
“People don’t realize Canada’s been very rough on the United States … They’ve outsmarted our politicians for years,” Trump said during a meeting with agricultural leaders. — Reuters