With record North American lumber costs pushing home prices to new heights, the U.S. National Association of Home Builders has called on President Joe Biden’s administration to reach a long-term trade deal on Canadian softwood trade.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Home Builders chairman John Fowkes said his 140,000 member builders have seen lumber prices triple since April 2020. Fowkes noted he made a similar appeal to the Donald Trump administration and the lumber trade situation is more pressing today, as COVID-19-restricted homeowners have added their renovation projects to the demand.
“The anti-dumping and countervailing duties currently in place on imported softwood lumber from Canada are aggravating already high lumber prices, and tariffs on other products are also contributing to higher construction costs, leading to more expensive housing,” Fowkes wrote in late April.
Lumber prices reached a new record Monday, with trading futures for May delivery reaching more than $1,500 per thousand board feet. B.C. lumber producers, responsible for half of Canada’s export output, are reaping profits despite the continued U.S. duties, and home buyers, builders and renovators are paying the price.
In November 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce reduced the rate for countervailing duties on Canadian lumber to below 10 per cent. The latest round of trade penalties in the 30-year-long campaign by the U.S. Lumber Coalition initially resulted in its heaviest duties on B.C. producers, more than 20 per cent on West Fraser, Tolko and Canfor lumber.
The U.S. Lumber Coalition has fired back at the Home Builders, arguing that import duties are having a “near-zero impact” on home buyers, and that high demand and lack of supply are the main drivers of lumber prices.