High Lumber Prices Add Urgency to a Decades-Old Trade Fight


In 2016, towards the top of the Obama administration, the American lumber business petitioned the federal government to impose duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports in response to what it contended have been unfair commerce practices. The proceedings continued below the Trump administration, which in 2017 imposed duties of 20.2 % for many Canadian producers. The speed was lowered to 9 % final yr.

The standing of the long-running dispute took on a brand new urgency as the worth of lumber soared over the previous yr. The Nationwide Affiliation of House Builders estimated in April that greater lumber prices had added almost $36,000 to the worth of a mean newly constructed single-family house. A benchmark for the worth of framing lumber set a document excessive of $1,515 per thousand board toes in Could, 4 occasions the worth at first of 2020, earlier than starting to plummet. Final week, the worth stood at $930, nonetheless greater than double its stage in the beginning of 2020, in line with Fastmarkets Random Lengths, the commerce publication that publishes the benchmark.

“As an economist, it is vitally arduous to know why we’re taxing one thing we don’t produce sufficient of,” stated Robert Dietz, the chief economist for the Nationwide Affiliation of House Builders.

On the opposite facet of the difficulty are U.S. lumber producers. The U.S. Lumber Coalition, an business group, has argued that sturdy demand, not duties, is driving lumber costs and that the duties make up solely a small portion of the entire value of lumber for brand spanking new properties.

The coalition credit the duties with strengthening the U.S. lumber business, saying in an announcement that American sawmills had expanded capability lately, producing a further 11 billion board toes of lumber since 2016. “Extra lumber being manufactured in America to fulfill home demand is a direct results of the commerce enforcement, and the U.S. business strongly urges the administration to proceed this enforcement,” the coalition stated.

Dustin Jalbert, a senior economist at Fastmarkets, a value reporting agency, attributed the chaotic lumber market and excessive costs largely to results from the pandemic. Initially of the pandemic, he stated, sawmills “assumed the worst” and curbed manufacturing, just for the housing market to rebound and for demand to soar.

Mr. Jalbert stated the duties stemming from the U.S.-Canada dispute weren’t a significant motive for the excessive costs. “When it comes to the short-term pricing state of affairs, it’s decrease down the checklist by way of the elements which are driving the document costs that we’ve seen out there,” he stated.


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