Oregon senator accuses Canada of ‘politicizing’ lumber duties probe

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden on Friday accused Canada of “politicizing” a U.S. government anti-subsidy investigation into Canadian softwood lumber imports by threatening retaliation against wine and other products from his home state of Oregon.

Wyden told Reuters in an interview the trade case has broad support in Congress and is supported by evidence, adding that Canada’s reaction is unfair.

“They tried to politicize it when they said we’re thinking about retaliating against Ron Wyden because he has been one of the ringleaders of this,” Wyden told Reuters. “I want it understood that what we’re talking about is supported by 25 senators from both political parties on the merits.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his government will defend the timber industry against what he calls an unfair U.S. decision last month to impose tariffs on exports of softwood lumber.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wyden’s remarks.

The long-running dispute centers on U.S. lumber producers’ charges that Canadian competitors benefit from an unfair government subsidy because their timber is cut from government-owned land at low costs.

The Commerce Department in April imposed preliminary duties averaging about 20 percent to offset this. Final duties are expected to be determined later this year, with the case subject to a final vote by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Trudeau responded by saying his government would study whether to stop U.S. firms from shipping thermal coal via ports in British Columbia. The Canadian government also was reported to be considering duties on Oregon exports including wine, hardwood flooring and plywood.

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