British Columbia's forests minister indicates support for two-year extension to SLA 2006, says it would provide certainty for industry's 'fragile' future

LOS ANGELES , September 20, 2011 () – British Columbia’s Forests Minister Steve Thomson has voiced his support for a two-year extension of the Canada-US softwood lumber agreement (SLA), according to a report by local news station AM 1150.

Forestweb reported last week that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is seeking comments as part of its review on whether to extend the SLA to Oct. 2015. The agreement is currently due to expire in Oct. 2013.

According to Thomson, an extension would provide certainty for the industry, the AM 1150 report said. Thomson noted that he spent the summer meeting with forest industry executives and stakeholder groups who were optimistic, but see the industry’s future as “still fragile.”

Thomson made the comments during a visit to the Ministry of Forests in Vernon on Monday to open a FrontCounter BC Service, which aims to make it easier for clients to apply for licenses for activities including logging and irrigation.

Thomson said he had some concerns about the latest case brought by the U.S. under the SLA, which seeks almost C$500 million in penalties from British Columbian producers.

The USTR has accused Interior sawmills of grading beetle-killed logs as lower-priced salvage timber, but using them to produce construction-grade lumber. A ruling on that case by the London Court of International Arbitration is not expected until April next year at the earliest.

The USTR has indicated that, if the LCIA rules in its favor, British Columbian producers should pay a 30.6% export tax in addition to the current 15%. If the SLA is extended until 2015, the U.S. wants the extra tax to be paid at a rate of 13.5% between April 2012 and Oct. 2015.

Thomson said the province’s lumber trade with China was bringing hope to the industry, noting that the equivalent of 19 mills are working to supply what has become the province's biggest lumber export customer.

The primary sources of this article are AM 1150, Vernon, British Columbia, on Sept. 19, 2011 and Forestweb archives.


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