WASHINGTON May 19 U.S. Democratic Senator Ron
Wyden on Friday accused Canada of "politicizing" a U.S.
government anti-subsidy investigation into Canadian softwood
lumber imports by threatening retaliation against wine and other
products from his home state of Oregon.
Wyden told Reuters in an interview the trade case has broad
support in Congress and is supported by evidence, adding that
Canada's reaction is unfair.
"They tried to politicize it when they said we're thinking
about retaliating against Ron Wyden because he has been one of
the ringleaders of this," Wyden told Reuters. "I want it
understood that what we're talking about is supported by 25
senators from both political parties on the merits."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his
government will defend the timber industry against what he calls
an unfair U.S. decision last month to impose tariffs on exports
of softwood lumber.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office did not
immediately respond to a request for comment on Wyden’s remarks.
The long-running dispute centers on U.S. lumber producers'
charges that Canadian competitors benefit from an unfair
government subsidy because their timber is cut from
government-owned land at low costs.
The Commerce Department in April imposed preliminary duties
averaging about 20 percent to offset this. Final duties are
expected to be determined later this year, with the case subject
to a final vote by the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Trudeau responded by saying his government would study
whether to stop U.S. firms from shipping thermal coal via ports
in British Columbia. The Canadian government also was reported
to be considering duties on Oregon exports including wine,
hardwood flooring and plywood.
Wyden said Canada was providing "truly abusive kinds of
subsidies" that made it hard for Oregon lumber mills to stay in
Wyden said the Trump administration's letter to Congress on
Thursday to launch renegotiations of the North American Free
Trade Agreement was "disappointingly vague," but he believed
that Trump's new trade negotiator will pursue broad-based
changes to the 23-year-old pact with Canada and Mexico.
Wyden said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told
him that he will pursue changes in areas such as labor rights,
environmental rules, digital trade and getting rid of a
problematic dispute settlement process.
"He made it clear to me that he was committed to a
significantly broader agenda than that written statement," Wyden
Lighthizer's NAFTA notification set the clock ticking toward
a mid-August start for renegotiations.
The letter (here%20Notification.pdf)
was far less detailed than a draft sent to lawmakers in March,
which listed as objectives tighter rules of origin, tax equality
and the ability to reimpose tariffs if Mexican and Canadian
imports pose a serious injury threat to U.S. industry.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chris Reese)