U.S. Arbitration Filing Questions Impact of Beetle Attack, BCLTC Claims
VANCOUVER, Jan. 18 /CNW/ - The British Columbia Lumber Trade Council (BCLTC) responded today to a request by the Office of the United States Trade Representative to seek arbitration under the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) on matters relating to British Columbia's interior forest pricing system.
John Allan, President, BCLTC, commented that "the U.S. filing fundamentally takes issue with the damage done to B.C.'s interior timber supply by the Mountain Pine Beetle. The impact on our timber supply has been staggering, as well as the impact on communities, workers and families, companies and the overall provincial economy", Allan said.
Allan further noted that "the B.C. industry has followed the rules and has acted in accordance with the language of SLA which protects those rules through grandparenting. The SLA provides that so long as B.C. follows the practices and procedures in place the U.S. has no right to complain that the Agreement is being breached."
The SLA is working well for the U.S. lumber industry as Canada's share of the U.S. market has fallen significantly commensurate with ongoing flat housing demand.
The British Columbia industry has further helped stabilize the U.S. market by aggressively diversifying its lumber markets, including a dramatic increase in shipments to China. This action, combined with an anticipated reduction in long-term BC timber supply caused by the destructive impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle could result in future constrained lumber availability that would hinder recovery in the U.S. housing market.
With less then three years left under the SLA, the United States would be well advised to focus its efforts on confronting these long-term structural issues and fostering the ongoing collaborative effort on both sides of the border to grow the market for lumber. "We are deeply disappointed that the U.S. instead has chosen to resume protectionist action the Agreement was meant to end", said Allan. "We've won every prior challenge the US has brought against BC's forest policies, and will prevail this time as well," Allan concluded.
The BCLTC represents 80% of interior lumber production and a substantial proportion of coastal production.