Quebec wants to meet with Ottawa over U.S.-Canada softwood lumber dispute

QUEBEC – Canada must create a loan guarantee program in order to ensure the country’s lumber producers continue to have access to the U.S. market, Quebec’s economy minister said Tuesday.

Dominique Anglade added that she has requested a meeting with federal International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland on Dec. 8 to discuss the softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the U.S.

The dispute reignited last Friday after American producers announced they were formally petitioning the U.S. government to impose duties against Canadian softwood lumber producers.

The U.S. lumber producers say Canadian lumber is being sold for less than fair value in the United States.

Roughly 60,000 people work in Quebec’s forestry industry and access to the U.S. market is considered critical to supporting those jobs.

Anglade said she wants the federal government to be proactive and put programs in place to support the industry.

Meanwhile, the looming trade dispute with its largest market for softwood lumber exports has British Columbia looking for new customers in China and India.

Anglade said she wants to meet with Freeland in order to ensure Quebec’s interests will be well represented during negotiations with the U.S.

Quebec has hired a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Chretien, to represent the province at the talks.

Chretien is meeting with U.S. officials next week and has said previously he expects very difficult negotiations.

The 2006 softwood lumber agreement expired a year ago but a one-year standstill period kicked in to allow an attempt at resolution.

An official in Freeland’s department said she has agreed in principle to a meeting with her Quebec counterpart on Dec. 8.