CHARLOTTETOWN — New Brunswick's premier heads to Washington on Tuesday, to meet with a senior member of President Donald Trump's cabinet, in a final push to have his province exempt from hefty duties on softwood lumber exports to the United States.
It's the second time in two months that Brian Gallant will meet with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to make New Brunswick's case — ahead of a final determination expected September 7.
In June, the U.S. Department of Commerce hit Canada with an additional 6.87 per cent in preliminary average anti-dumping tariffs, leaving the industry facing average duties of about 27 per cent.
The decision exempts the other three Atlantic provinces, but New Brunswick — exempt from such tariffs in the past — is not.
Gallant said he'll make the case that exporting softwood lumber creates jobs in his province and lowers the cost of construction for American families.
"I will argue this and other reasons why New Brunswick should continue to have the exclusion we have enjoyed since 1982," Gallant said Sunday.
Former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins, who New Brunswick hired as a special envoy on the softwood trade dispute, will also be part of the meeting.
During his first meeting with Ross, in July, Gallant said he stressed the importance of the trading relationship between the Atlantic provinces and the New England states.
The premier said he used the example of Twin Rivers Paper Co. to demonstrate how the two economies are intertwined.
Headquartered in Maine with significant New Brunswick operations, the company operates integrated pulp and paper mills connected by pipelines crossing the St. John River. One pipeline carries pulp from Edmundston, N.B., to the paper plant, while another transports steam between facilities. Wood chips and biomass from Canadian sawmills help generate the steam used to make pulp.
"They have about 1,000 employees, evenly divided between the two countries. They contribute over $200 million to the economies of Maine and New Brunswick," Gallant said.
Softwood lumber contributes more than $1.45 billion to the New Brunswick economy each year and employs more than 22,000 people.
While most softwood lumber exporters in New Brunswick would be paying a combined rate of about 27 per cent, it would be about 10 per cent for J.D. Irving Ltd., which was hit with a three per cent countervailing duty in April's preliminary ruling.
Forest NB, which represents most of the forestry companies in New Brunswick, said the treatment of J.D. Irving Ltd., proves the case for all New Brunswick softwood lumber producers.
Gallant's meeting in Washington on softwood lumber comes on the heels of two days of talks on trade and the future of NAFTA with the other Eastern Canadian premiers and the governors of the New England states.
The premiers said it is important to use every occasion to make their case on the importance of a strong trading relationship between Canada and the United States.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press