US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday
that his department will slap new anti-subsidy duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports.
The duties, averaging 20%, would affect $US5 billion worth of softwood lumber imports from Canada.
On Tuesday, he explained some of the thinking behind the tariffs in an interview with CNBC.
“I wouldn’t regard the Canadian situation as being anything like the war with ISIS, but it certainly is a very precise set of tariffs on a very precise set of imports,” he said.
“The reason we’re putting it on is Canada’s forests are owned by the various provinces, and the provinces charge very discounted, we believe, very subsidized prices to the lumbermen, which in turn lets them get a subsidized low price coming into the US,” he continued. “It simply seems unfair because in the US, most of the forests are privately owned and therefore they pay full market rate for the stumpage.”
Ross also addressed the Trump administration’s approach to free trade relative to prior US administrations, saying the new White House was more focused on “enforcement” than its predecessors.
“The Trump administration has been much more focused on enforcement than had been true previously. And there’s a good reason for that. The US is the least protectionist of the major powers, and yet we have the highest deficit — $US500 billion,” he said.
“The other countries that talk about free trade are really very protectionist — Europe, China, Japan. So they have the rhetoric of free trade, but the reality of protectionism,” he argued. “That set of facts is not going to be permitted to continue.”
The Canadian dollar is down by 0.6% at 1.3582 per dollar as of 10:24 a.m. ET.