Atlantic provinces hope for return to talks with U.S. for expired lumber deal

SUSSEX, N.B. – Cabinet ministers in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are expressing concern that Canada and the United States haven’t started renegotiating the softwood lumber trade agreement.

The 2006 agreement that expired on Monday was reached to regulate Canadian softwood exports to the U.S., and ended five years of court battles.

It returned $4 billion in duties collected by the U.S. on Canadian producers, and gave the Atlantic provinces an exemption from quotas imposed on larger producers such as British Columbia.

Rick Doucet, the trade minister in New Brunswick, said in an interview today that it’s extremely important to the industry in the province that the Canadian and U.S. governments get back to the bargaining table.

Geoff MacLellan, the acting minister of Natural Resources, also said in an email he’s disappointed the talks are stalled and said he will work with his Maritime colleagues to protect the region’s unique position in the lumber trade.

Both provinces have seen a steady increase in their lumber exports under the deal, with New Brunswick’s export sales rising 40 per cent over the past four years to $397 million, and Nova Scotia’s exports reaching a value of $85 million last year.