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Canadian Union Leader Says U.S. Softwood Lumber Tariffs Should Be Cut

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February 22, 2021 | Bill Esler

Toronto – The Canadian union that represents lumber and sawmill workers is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to settle the years-long softwood lumber dispute with the U.S. and remove protective tariffs between the countries. Canada’s United Steelworkers Union (USW) has represented these wood industry workers since 2004, when it merged with the Wood Council.

Canada and US flags image

“President Biden is showing good faith by making Canada his first bilateral meeting. The Prime Minister must not miss this chance to strengthen Canada’s relationship with the United States while defending and even creating Canadian jobs,” says USW National Director Ken Neumann. “The new President’s stated commitments offer the perfect opportunity for the Prime Minister to seek Canadian exemptions to ‘Buy American’ policies, to permanently resolve the softwood lumber dispute, and to start incorporating our countries’ climate plans.”

Since his election, beyond fighting the pandemic, President Biden has made commitments to fight climate change, invest in infrastructure and stand up for workers. Neumann pointed out that finding common ground on these priorities will mean the difference between job growth or job losses in Canada.

From aluminum and steel to cement and wood, the materials needed to build President Biden’s promised infrastructure are produced in Canada, often with a smaller carbon footprint than those produced elsewhere. Noting that it is rumored softwood lumber tariffs will be used by the U.S., the USW says that Canada should be included in “Buy American” plans and credited environmental advances. Softwood lumber tariffs of 20% were imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2017, then lowered to 9% in December 2020. 

The USW also called on the Prime Minister to make a clear commitment to protecting all workers by joining the President in clear steps to ending anti-worker legislation and facilitating unionization on both sides of the border, including the growing gig economy.

“If the President can be convinced to include Canada as a partner in his plans on these priorities, it would mean more jobs and opportunity in both countries,” says Neumann. “If the Prime Minister lets Canada get left out of the new President’s plans to grow the American economy, Canadian workers will be left on the outside looking in.”

“If the President can be convinced to include Canada as a partner in his plans on these priorities, it would mean more jobs and opportunity in both countries,” says Neumann. “If the Prime Minister lets Canada get left out of the new President’s plans to grow the American economy, Canadian workers will be left on the outside looking in.”

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