By Paul Vieira
OTTAWA -- U.S. lumber producers filed a trade complaint over Canadian lumber imports on Friday, making good on an earlier threat that could revive a decades-old trade fight at a time when U.S. President-elect Donald Trump seeks major changes to the North American Free-Trade Agreement.
The U.S. Lumber Coalition said it filed a petition with the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission alleging Canadian lumber is unfairly dumped -- or sold at less than market value -- into the U.S. market. The coalition said it wants the U.S. government to impose duties on Canadian imports to offset the harm Canadian imports have caused U.S. mills and lumber-reliant communities.
The U.S. industry has "experienced a decline in several key trade and financial indicators as a result of the low-priced Canadian imports, including lost sales and revenues which resulted in U.S. mill closures and job losses," the coalition said in a statement.
A probe by U.S. officials could take up to 75 days. Representatives for the Commerce Department or International Trade Commission weren't immediately available for comment.
The two countries have been at a standstill on lumber since the expiration last year of a 2006 bilateral deal that ended decades of legal battles over U.S. moves to impose duties on Canadian imports. Under that arrangement, Canadian forest producers agreed to accept either a quota on U.S.-bound exports or pay a tax on goods shipped to the U.S. When the deal expired in October 2015, a one-year standstill period prevented any trade complaints from being filed.
Canadian officials warned late Thursday they expected a formal complaint could be filed as early as Friday.
The complaint comes at a murky time for trade between Canada and the U.S., with Mr. Trump set to take office in January and push for an overhaul of Nafta, which connects Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
Much of Mr. Trump's focus on Nafta has been on Mexico, but Canada -- which had a trade agreement with the U.S. that predated Nafta -- is unlikely to be immune. Issues such as softwood-lumber imports, Canadian government support for its dairy farmers, and labeling of beef in the U.S. produced from cattle born or raised in Canada could attract notice from the incoming administration.
On the trade front, Mr. Trump said this week he will formally withdraw U.S. support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal in his first days in office. Canada was among the signatories to TPP, although both U.S. and Canada have yet to ratify the agreement.
Canadian officials have said there were "fundamental differences" between the two sides onsoftwood lumber, making it difficult to reach a new bilateral pact. A spokesman for Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said the "protectionist climate in the U.S." does complicate efforts to find a resolution on lumber.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he is prepared to work with Mr. Trump, and is open to discuss changes to Nafta that would improve the plight of continent's workforce.
Ms. Freeland's spokesman added that Canada is "prepared for any situation, and [the] government will vigorously defend the interests of Canadian workers and producers."
Write to Paul Vieira at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 25, 2016 14:47 ET (19:47 GMT)
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