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West Fraser CEO says softwood war end not near

Oct. 25, 2017 - Canadian lumber producers may still have a long wait ahead of them if they’re hoping for a peaceful resolution to the wearisome softwood lumber dispute that has been plaguing relations between Canadians and our neighbours to the south.

This, according to West Fraser Timber chief executive officer Ted Seraphim.

Seraphim spoke Tuesday morning in a conference call saying the U.S. Lumber Coalition’s actions to date are damaging to U.S. homebuilders and home buyers in the long run.

“I want to reiterate that at West Fraser our preference continues to be to find a durable long-term solution. And as such we are prepared to be patient,” he said. “I can’t stress enough the appreciation we have for the support of our provincial governments in B.C. and Alberta and the Canadian government that work tirelessly to find a solution to this dispute.”

The softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the U.S. expired in October 2015. In November 2016, the U.S. Lumber Coalition launched a petition asking the American government to impose duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports, citing unfair subsidies to American lumber producers. 

The U.S. Department of Commerce applied a 24 per cent countervailing duty on West Fraser in April 2017 — the highest of any other Canadian lumber producer affected. It also applied an antidumping duty of seven per cent in June 2017.

West Fraser has paid $65 million in duties so far in 2017. The countervailing duty requirement was suspended in August 2017 until the U.S. International Trade Commission comes to a final decision.

“The softwood lumber dispute has taken significant time and effort from many of our employees,” Seraphim said.

“The Coalition ultimately is the decision maker at least at this point in time in the U.S., and they haven’t shown a willingness to effectively negotiate,” he said. “I think patience on the Canadian side will be a virtue in the long run.”

West Fraser’s softwood lumber countervailing and anti-dumping duties cost the company $31 million for its current third quarter.

Its third quarter results also reported the company’s acquisition of six sawmills and a finger-joint mill in Florida and Georgia — all formerly part of Gilman Companies.