Free Trade

The U.S. Might Be About to Declare War on Canada Over Lumber

A trade war is brewing.


Anne LaBastille / Wikimedia Commons

2016 has been an absolutely dismal year for the prospects of free trade, what with the two major party presidential candidates working to outdo each other on who can be the most protectionist. Last week things got even worse with news that a trade war is brewing between the United States and—wait for it—Canada.

On Wednesday the U.S. Lumber Coalition—which represents this country's timber industry—put out a press release saying that it had "no choice but to move to initiate trade cases against" Canada for the allegedly unfair practices of its logging industry.

These actions came on the heels of the expiration of the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) on October 12. The SLA was signed back in 2006 as means of ending a decadeslong trade conflict between the United States and its northern neighbor over the supposed dumping of cheap Canadian lumber onto the U.S. market, to the detriment of American loggers.

The U.S. lumber industry's complaint centers around "stumping" fees Canadian provinces charge timber companies to log on publicly owned land. American loggers assert that these fees are too low and thus amount to an unfair subsidization of a domestic industry.

Since 1986, the U.S. Department of Commerce has tended to agree with American loggers, imposing trade duties that at times have reached as high 27 percent on Canadian imports.

But this has prompted counteraction from the Canadians, who have repeatedly dragged the U.S. before North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization tribunals. Both bodies, in turn, have ruled multiple times against the U.S.'s protectionist actions. The most significant of these ruling came in March 2006 when a NAFTA panel ordered the U.S. to refund to Canada some $5 billion in import duties.

These international rebukes at last brought the U.S. to the table, and in July of that year, American and Canadian officials signed the landmark SLA. Under the terms of the deal, Canadian provinces would adopt a series of self-imposed duties and quotas designed to limit Canadian exports to at most 34 percent of the U.S. market. In exchange, the American timber industry agreed to drop its complaints over those notorious stumping fees.

For a blessed 10 years under this managed trade deal, relative peace prevailed, but with the expiration of the accord last week, that delicate calm looks like it's about to to shatter.

The result is likely to be higher prices for U.S. consumers, along with mill closures and job losses north of the border. And all this is happening under President Barack Obama, a man who at least pays lip service to free trade. It's hard to imagine the prospects for open lumber trade will get better under either of his likely successors.

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  1. Blame Canada! Is Hillary going to arm the good Canadians against the bad Canadians? When will she take out Zoolander?

    1. +1 They’re not even a real country anyway

      1. They think they are. I once forgot my passport when going to Canada and when I arrived at the border, the border beeotch told me ‘This is an international border! You’re trying to enter Canada!’. I got in anyway, because my wife was with me and I was nice. If not, I would have insulted the cunt, for being a cunt.

        1. I’ve never had an issue going in. Coming back one trip pre-passport days I was asked for proof of citizenship. So I hand the dude my Ohio drivers license and the asshole is like that’s not proof of citizenship. I’m in my car with Ohio plates, wife, kids, and mother in law. Luckily I had my birth certificate in my wallet. Freggin’ prick.

          1. They didn’t give me any trouble that time when I came back. I gave the guy my driver’s license and he handed it back and said have a nice day.

          2. Having crossed the border many times I can say without qualification that the US agents are always worse.

            1. I can verify this is true. Every time I come back on an international flight, the border agents are total dickweeds. I get a warmer welcome abroad than I get coming back to my own country.

              1. Going into Mexico I get a smile and a wave past the line of actual Mexicans having to go through customs.

                Coming back I’m grilled about what my business out of the country was.

                1. “Noneya.”

        2. If she let you in without a passport, how real is that border?

          1. I guess since they didn’t offer me a driver’s license and welfare, it’s sort of real.

          2. As real as any other border. IOW, not real.

            1. The same thing could be said about the property lines about your house. It’s as real a line as the amount of effort put into defending it.

              1. It’s as real a line as the amount of effort put into defending it.

                Sort of, but not quite such a direct linear relationship.

  2. “And all this is happening under President Barack Obama, a man who at least pays lip service to free trade.”

    Yeah, but tree murderers must be stopped!

  3. OH NOES, our access to flannel might be curtailed!

    1. Worse, maple syrup!

      1. Vermont makes excellent maple syrup. As does Highland County, VA, believe it or not.

        1. No, it’s unpossable, my prog acquaintances have told me there are no more trees left in the USA, because capitalism and mother Gaia is being raped and killed!

          1. mother Gaia is being raped and killed

            Yes, for delicious, delicious maple syrup.

        2. Canadian maple syrup is inferior.

        3. As a Virginia resident, I can vouch for this. The Maple Festival is fun to attend.

  4. About fucking time!

  5. over the supposed dumping of cheap Canadian lumber onto the U.S. market, to the detriment of American loggers.

    Could someone explain to me why the fuck I should care about American loggers more than cheap lumber?

    Is it something to do with that magical line on the ground?

    1. Where do progs stand on this issue? We can replace all that lumber with sunshine and happiness?

    2. And while you’re at it, explain why American loggers should give a fuck about Agamemnon.

      1. But the loggers spell it right.


      2. Well, Agammamon, anyway. F’ing spell corrector.

        1. I hate that shit on my Android phone. I guess I should figure out how to turn it off.

      3. I don’t think he’s asking them to care about him. They are demanding American consumers pay more for lumber to support them.

        1. They can take a flying leap as far as I’m concerned. I guess Trump is their man.

        2. Tell me, why are they not agitating for a lowering of US Stump Fees instead?

          1. My guess – that would make it easier for domestic competitors to enter the market.

          2. Because that’s not how “leveling the playing field” works. Haven’t you been paying attention to the taxi vs. ride sharing threads?

          3. Same reason UPS is not opposing their unionized workforce. Same reason taxi companies want Uber to have the same regulatory structure applied to them.

            When demanding a ‘level playing field’ nobody ever demands that their side of the field be lowered, only that the other side be raised.

        3. Fucking perceived self interest. How does it work?

          1. It works to produce bad policy.

      4. I don’t expect them to give a fuck about me. At least no more of a fuck than to have the command goddamn courtesy to give a reach around when they’re using the coercive power of government to fuck me.

        I used to date hispanicsunion guys but now I prefer consensual.

    3. Targegted benefits trump(!) diluted costs.

    1. Plans are always shot to hell after the first moments of war. Let’s just sharpen our scimitars, saddle up our horses, and get this mofo underway.

      1. “Everybody has a plan until they get hit.” – Mike Tyson

  6. Since 1986, the U.S. Department of Commerce has tended to agree with American loggers


  7. The real issue is: if logging is taking place anyway on “publicly owned” (meaning government-owned) land, why is the land publicly owned in the first place?

    Both the Canadian and American governments should stop holding producers and consumers hostage to political special interests via the immoral and unjust holding of these lands, especially if they’re not even truly being “protected” anyway.

    1. In the US at least, National Forests and BLM land is supposed to be managed for “many uses”, including recreation, conservation, and commercial use. That’s a difficult to impossible task, of course, because many uses directly conflict with each other, and absent a price mechanism you instead get politicking. No surprise there. It’s not a complete disaster but it’s obviously not as efficient as a market solution.

  8. Invade them and take their trees! 54 40 or Fight!

    1. Are we exiling all the Quebeckistanians to France? What about the rest of them? I don’t want them coming down here!

      1. I actually like Canada and Canadians quite a bit. So I suggest we anex Montreal, the Maritimes, the Canadian Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. The rest of them can fight for themselves.

        1. Wouldn’t that be either the Pacific Northeast (from the ocean’s point of vew) or the Pacific Southwest (from Canada’s point fo view)? We already have our Pacific Northwest, although Seattle seems to be itching for foreign status.

  9. The U.S. lumber industry’s complaint centers around “stumping” fees Canadian provinces charge timber companies to log on publicly owned land. American loggers assert that these fees are too low and thus amount to an unfair subsidization of a domestic industry.

    So the argument is that Canada isn’t fucking their loggers hard enough?

  10. What is the climate alarmism position on Canadian stump fees?

    Are they releasing CO2 or are they sequestering CO2 by harvesting?

    1. Who the fuck cares?

      Well managed forestry is probably a net carbon sink at some point. Mature forests don’t grow as fast and consume less CO2. It’s also the best way to keep land covered in forest. Which is a good thing and not just for aesthetics.

  11. Trees are a non-renewable resource, so I say let the Canuckistanis clearcut themselves out of existence! Their land will erode into the sea and we’ll finally have that unobstructed view of the North Pole we’ve been craving since the dawn of time.

  12. Way to pivot from that pesky border issue with Mexico!

    In the end, what will the Canadians say? “Soory aboot that, eh?”

    1. In the end, what will the Canadians say? “Soory aboot that, eh?”

      Only some Eastern/Central Canadians. Westerners don’t have that stoooopid accent.

      1. They have a different stupid accent.

  13. Oh no! Canadians are selling us cheap lumber! That’s not fair! It’s not expensive enough! We need to tax it to make it more expensive, and make everything made with it more expensive! That will make things fair!

    1. sarc, the government is peopled with literal retards who would look at you with the same earnest, but uncomprehending eyes as your dog if you do a card trick for him when you try to explain about division of labor or why letting someone else harvest their cheap resources first is actually a good thing for people with a similar, but more expensive resource.

      1. Oh, I know. In my work I have had to deal directly with many a federal bureaucrat, and I always felt as if my IQ had dropped by fifty points just from talking with them. It’s just like you said in that they stare at you when you talk to them, but they don’t comprehend a single word. Then they go and make their decisions based upon who they like or dislike, or some other petty, political bullshit.

    2. But jerbz!!!

  14. Terrence and Phillip hardest hit.

    1. “We have already apologized for Celine Dion several times.”

      1. But not enough for Alanis Morissette

      2. What about Nickelback, Brian Adams, and Justin Bieber? You haven’t even started apologizing yet!

        1. We don’t need to apologize for Bryan Adams. Nickleback and The Beeb, on the other hand…

          …we feel your pain.

  15. All so easy for trade negotiators and bureaucrats in general to forget they represent all USians, not just the lumber companies. Consumers first, last, and only — not manufacturers, importers, exporters, trade organizations, cartels, unions, any subset — they represent everybody as a whole.

    If they’d just wake up and understand Econ 101 — then abolish all tariffs, every last single one of them, and let the economy go! Let other countries tax their citizens while ours get the best deals possible and save money for investment and innovations and leave those other economies in the dust, envious as all get out.

    At first, they’d sniff about protecting their citizens from cheap American goods, but at some point, they’d realize that the only way to export is by buying foreign goods in turn. Gradually they’d loosen their import restrictions or suffer the consequences.

    A feller can dream, can’t he?

  16. It’s all a big misunderstanding.

    Those Canadians guys with the big bushy beards, flannel shirts, and suspenders? They’re not actually loggers. They’ve never so much as cut down an overgrown hedge.

    Those guys are just urban hipsters, and no threat to any logging. The man-buns and brightly colored socks should have been a giveaway.

    1. I was made to understand that they were, in fact, loggers, but they were okay. Something about putting on women’s clothing and hanging around in bars?

      1. +1 dear old girlie, just like my papa!

  17. Let me get this straight. For decades environmentalists have said that loggers were killing trees in an unsustainable way. How is it that now the population of trees is so great that an oversupply could spur a trade war between the US and Canada?

    1. They were lying… and Canadian cities will burn for for those lies.

      1. +1 ‘Tailor of Montreal’

    2. Got into an argument with a prog one time over trees in MD. I asked him, what the fuck, are you blind? There isn’t one single square inch of MD that there isn’t a building, road, or parking lot that is not covered with fucking trees!

      1. You forgot the chicken farms.

      2. I’ve stunned progs speechless at times by whipping out a statistic that always blows their minds:

        In the 1880s, the state of Vermont was less than 20% forested land. By the 1980s (and continuing to today), it is nearly 90% forested land.

        So how does that work again about trees, once they are all cut down, will never again grow a forest?

        As a kid, I lived near a small abandoned army base and used to ride my mountain bike around what had been the base’s roads. It was amazing to see how quickly nature took over: vines covering buildings, bushes growing on rooftops, and sapling trees springing up through broken pavement.

        1. People forget that the great deforestation of the US came about *because no one owned the land*.

          Once you couldn’t just go into a new forest and start cutting down trees, logging companies started fucking *farming* trees. Imagine that. Growing trees on the land you own like they were some sort of plant or something.

  18. Beware the unintended consequences affecting the woodchipper market.

    1. Woodchippers are banned in Canada.

      1. Then there’s gonna be a big bust over at Canadian Tire, eh? Their even having a sale!

        1. Or *They’re* for those of you who prefer correct spelling.

          1. or ‘Thair’ for those who prefer their mis-spellings to be archaic.

  19. American loggers assert that these fees are too low and thus amount to an unfair subsidization of a domestic industry.

    How much do the Canucks spend on environmental impact studies and fending off lawsuits (frivolous or otherwise) from the SAVE THE TREEZ! brigades?

    1. “There was that time the environuts chained themselves to our trees. We set the automated loggers and went to lunch. The problem solved itself.”

  20. There are actually ‘timber smugglers’ due to these duties. It’s kind of amazing, but at +20% duties, even bulk goods like timber will get smuggled. And those losers in Customs haven’t trained their dogs to sniff out fresh wood.

    “Are you a smuggling timber or are you just happy to see me?”

    1. Black markets in everything . . .

    2. This country was founded on smuggling. I see no reason to give up on the one consistant element of our heritage from the Founding Fathers to today!

    3. ‘timber smuggler’

      My nickname in high school.

      1. My wood was never hidden…

  21. Hacksaw Jim Duggan needs to talk to these politicians and logging lobbies.

  22. —-It’s hard to imagine the prospects for open lumber trade will get better under either of his likely successors.—-

    I can easily imagine things changing. It will just depend on the size of the check that the Canadian lumber industry writes to the Clinton Foundation.

    1. ^ This. Sooooo much this!

  23. Holy Timbits, I have the answer methinks. Just build a big, wooden wall and have the Canadians pay for it!

    1. “You have to pay your timber tariff in timber.”

  24. I just noticed that by Presidential Proclamation, this is National Forest Products Week, 2016.

    1. Its kind of sad. There are people who put forth an effort to make this happen. Now that the President has ‘legitimized’ their efforts they believe they’ve actually accomplished something. Some might even put this on their resumes.

  25. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the US lumber industry to push for lower “stumping fees” in the US than higher ones in Canada?

  26. Did Bumbles draw another Red Line?

    1. I think it was a green line leading right to the Clinton foundation.

  27. How much wood could a Woodchuck chuck if a Woodchuck is faced with fines and tarriffs for chucking said wood over the border for cheap?

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