PORT ANGELES — Port of Port Angeles officials are concerned President Donald J. Trump’s proposed 20 percent tariff on Canadian soft lumber imports into the United States could indirectly affect local log exports.
Trump first announced the proposed tariff during a gathering with conservative media outlets at the White House on Monday evening, The Associated Press said.
“That concerns me,” said John Nutter, director of finance and administration for the port.
Exactly how the proposed tariff would affect local businesses would be speculation at this point, he said.
Nutter said if the proposal goes through, it is possible Canada could increase exports to China, thus competing with the same market as the U.S.
Last year, 84 million board feet of timber was exported from Port Angeles to China, he said.
More than 65 million board feet of timber has been exported every year since 2011.
“I’m waiting to see a little bit more,” Nutter said. “I don’t know if the current presidential administration is going to be successful in this [tariff].”
On Twitter, Breitbart News White House correspondent Charlie Spiering quoted Trump as saying, “We’re going to be putting a 20 percent tax on softwood lumber coming in — tariff on softwood coming into the United States from Canada.”
The Commerce Department later announced it had reached a preliminary determination and would impose countervailing duties ranging from 3 percent to 24 percent on imported softwood lumber, with an average of about 20 percent, according to the AP.
Trump has been railing against Canada’s decision to change its policy on pricing domestic milk to cover more dairy ingredients, leading to lower prices for products, including ultra-filtered milk. Trump has called the move “a disgrace” that’s hurting U.S. producers in dairy states such as Wisconsin.
“It has been a bad week for U.S.-Canada trade relations,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement. “This is not our idea of a properly functioning Free Trade Agreement.”
The Canadian government, meanwhile, rejected the assessment, calling the lumber duty “unfair and punitive.”
“The Government of Canada disagrees strongly with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty,” said Jim Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources, and Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, in a joint statement. “The accusations are baseless and unfounded.”
Canadian officials warned the action would have a negative impact on American families who would have to pay more to build or renovate homes. And they said they would sue, if necessary.
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, imports of softwood lumber from Canada were valued at an estimated $5.66 billion in 2016.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].
Content from The Associated Press is included in this report.