Merkley: Softwood Lumber Arbitration Decision a Victory for American Timber Industry and Workers

Portland, OR
– After the London Court of International Arbitration ruled today that Canada breached the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA), Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley praised the decision and urged progress in pending arbitrations.  The tribunal agreed that Canada unfairly subsidized the Canadian softwood lumber industry in violation of the agreement, harming the American timber industry.

“The timber industry is a central component of Oregon’s economy and a fundamental part of our state’s identity,” Merkley said.  “Canada’s breach of this trade agreement has harmed the timber industry and jeopardized the livelihoods of Oregon workers.  It’s disappointing that we’ve had to resort to arbitration to ensure fair prices on Canadian timber exports, but today’s decision is a positive result for the American timber industry.  It is my hope that the tribunal can move quickly to consider the other unresolved SLA arbitration requests in order to restore fairness to the North American lumber trade.”

Earlier this week, Merkley offered his support to Ambassador Kirk’s decision to request SLA arbitration with Canada regarding the under-pricing of timber harvested from public lands in British Columbia.  Today’s decision is the result of a separate arbitration request.  The British Columbia arbitration request is still pending. 

Over the past year, Senator Merkley has pushed the Obama Administration to take a strong stand against Canadian violations of the Softwood Lumber Agreement.  In a one-on-one phone call in September 2010, Senator Merkley urged Ambassador Kirk to request formal consultations to address Canada’s violation of the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement.  Following that call, the United States requested formal consultations with Canada under the SLA.  According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, consultations were held in October 2010, but did not resolve the matter. 

By providing government-owned timber to Canadian lumber companies at a rate significantly below market value, British Columbia has engaged in unfair competition and put American workers and the nation’s timber industry in jeopardy.