Logs ready for milling at sawmill in Prince George.

Asia imports up as U.S. targets B.C. lumber

#BCForestFuture series: Premier Christy Clark confident Donald Trump wants housing construction boom, needs B.C. lumber

The U.S. Commerce Department has announced it will investigate allegations of unfair imports of Canadian lumber, half of which comes from B.C.

The U.S. government gave its response to a petition by the U.S. Lumber Coalition filed in November, officially kicking off the fifth softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the U.S. It will investigate whether there was “dumping” of Canadian lumber into the U.S. market.

In a year-end interview, Premier Christy Clark said is confident Canada and B.C. can get an agreement with the new U.S. administration.

“Donald Trump is a builder by profession,” Clark said. “He says he wants four per cent economic growth. He knows that the fastest way to move the American economy is through construction of residential housing.

“Our argument for him is going to be, you need Canadian softwood in order to get that residential housing market really booming.”

If the department and the International Trade Commission determine that U.S. lumber producers have been affected by unfair trade, countervailing duties on Canadian imports could be imposed as soon as February.

Lumber prices and the international export market have expanded in 2016, as demand has increased in the U.S. and China.

U.S. lumber exports are up 31 per cent so far this year, according to the latest quarterly bulletin from Seattle-based Wood Resources International LLC. It also reports strong demand for imported softwood lumber in China this year, with Russia the largest supplier at 59 per cent of the market.

The bulletin reports softwood lumber imports to Japan are up 7.5 per cent, compared to the first nine months of 2015, with Canada the largest supplier.