September 06,2016

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Keith Chu (202) 224-4515 

ICYMI: Canada's Softwood Pricing Undercuts the Market, Threatening Oregon Jobs

Wyden Voices Concerns Over Canadian Timber Price Controls and Their Effect on U.S. Timber Markets

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., yesterday wrote an opinion editorial in which he detailed his concerns regarding the Canadian timber market, fearing that lower prices set by the Canadian government on timber imports are undercutting U.S. markets, threatening thousands of timber jobs in Oregon and several other states across the country:

I write in response to the op-ed by Canada's consul general challenging the views of an Oregon mill owner harmed by subsidized Canadian lumber ("In defense of Canada's softwood lumber trading," Aug. 24); see also "Fair trade is a jobs issue," Aug. 4.

It is true that sawmill industries have a long history in both Oregon and Canada.

But the similarities end there.

For 30 years, the United States has voiced serious concerns about Canada's timber pricing system, in which the government sets the price of wood rather than relying on the market. Because Canadian mills sell much of their lumber in the U.S., when the Canadian government sets its timber prices too low, as it frequently does, that translates into serious market distortions that could cost Oregon jobs.

Canada has in the past recognized the need to agree on border measures to address the consequences of timber prices set by government decree rather than the free market. That recognition contributed to the most recent agreement on softwood lumber trade, which expired last October.

I led 25 Democratic and Republican members of the Senate, who urged the U.S. trade representative to negotiate a new agreement that fully addresses market distortions at the border. Without an agreement, litigation is inevitable. Oregon's lumber mills will bring trade cases to level the playing field, using the trade enforcement laws I successfully fought to strengthen this year.

If U.S. mills are forced to bring trade cases, l am committed to ensuring that U.S. trade laws are fully enforced.  I've crisscrossed Oregon this summer and seen firsthand the impacts of Canada's system on our mill towns. Oregonians in these communities told me they're deeply concerned about unfair trade in Canadian softwood.

Time is running short. Denying the problem — or attempting to change the conversation to other issues such as timber supply — doesn't get us closer to a solution.

As negotiations continue, the parties involved — including Canada — have to come to the table ready to resolve this longstanding issue.

Oregonians deserve a fair playing field when it comes to lumber trade and — either through an agreement, or strict enforcement of trade laws — I am committed to securing one.