OTTAWA _ Demand for wood products to help rebuild after two devastating hurricanes in the United States will put pressure on the White House to sort out the latest softwood dispute with Canada, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said Thursday.
Carr made the comments about the storm damage following a speech at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers.
“We know that it has an influence on markets and on demand and we also know that Canadian producers offer a very, very good supply of Canadian lumber in the United States,” said Carr.
“That’s an economic reality. I mean market forces are important. So we think it almost certainly will have some impact on thinking.”
This came a day after Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, asked the U.S. to at least suspend the tariffs until the hurricane rebuilding has been completed.
LePage said “corporate greed from a coalition of big lumber companies” already sent softwood market prices soaring.
“Making a profit is the goal of any company _ and it should be,” LePage wrote in an op-ed in The Maine Wire.
“But it is unconscionable that this coalition is in a position that could lead to price-gouging Americans in distress.”
The National Association of Home Builders in the United States made a similar plea to the White House earlier this month.
Hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas and Florida were damaged when hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck in recent weeks.
The insurance industry estimated it could be on the hook for up to $250 billion in damage claims from the two storms, which doesn’t take into account uninsured losses.
In the Florida Keys, Irma is said to have destroyed 25 per cent of all the homes and damaged more than 90 per cent.
Softwood products are largely used in home building and the U.S. is incapable of producing enough wood itself to meet demand already.
Canada supplies more than 90 per cent of imported softwood, although that share diminished slightly in the spring when the duties made wood from places like Germany and Russia more attractive.
The U.S. Department of Commerce in April imposed tariffs on Canadian softwood imports after agreeing with the U.S. Lumber Coalition that Canada was unfairly subsidizing its lumber producers, an allegation Canada denies.