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U.S. postpones decisions on softwood lumber to November

WASHINGTON, D.C. (From news reports) -- The U.S. Secretary of Commerce has announced he will postpone the final decision in the investigations of anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties on softwood lumber from Canada until mid-November.

"I remain hopeful that we can reach a negotiated solution that satisfies the concerns of all parties," said Wilbur Ross Jr. in a statement Monday.

"This extension could provide the time needed to address the complex issues at hand and to reach an equitable and durable suspension agreement."

The announcement comes a day before New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant travels to Washington to meet with Ross.

"Trade and softwood lumber are what Secretary Ross and I will discuss at our meeting," said Gallant in a statement. "Exporting softwood lumber to the United States creates jobs in New Brunswick and helps lower 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 he will be asking Ross to exclude New Brunswick from countervailing duties on softwood from Canada to the United States.

Ross said the final determinations in the investigations will be made no later than Nov. 14. The decision had previously been expected in early September.

Wilbur's statement indicates the postponement of the final determination is a result of the "complexity" of the investigations and ongoing discussions between the U.S. and Canada.

It is allowable under U.S. law for the Department of Commerce to postpone a final determination on anti-dumping duty for a total of 135 days after the publication of a preliminary determination.

Because the countervailing duty is aligned with the anti-dumping investigation, that final determination will be announced at the same time.

If the Commerce Department's final determinations find that the U.S. producers have been harmed because of the Canadian softwood lumber being exported into the U.S., anti-dumping and countervailing duties will be ordered.

If they find that U.S. producers have not been harmed, then the investigations will end, and no duties will be collected.

In June, the U.S. Commerce Department 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.

Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador were exempt from the decision, but New Brunswick -- exempt from such tariffs in the past -- was not excluded.

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 subject to a three per cent countervailing duty under April's preliminary ruling.

Former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins has been hired as New Brunswick's special envoy on the softwood trade dispute.

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