By Cindy Macdonald
Richard Garneau, president and CEO of Resolute Forest Products Inc., reaffirmed the company’s support of free, unencumbered access for softwood lumber exports from Central Canada (Quebec and Ontario) to the United States.
Garneau has been a vocal figure in the ongoing softwood lumber dispute between the U.S. and Canada, and draws on over 40 years of experience and leadership in the forest products industry across Canada.
Resolute is Canada’s largest forest products company and the largest producer of softwood lumber east of the Rockies.
Garneau has consistently challenged the claims by some that the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement between the U.S. and Canada produced predictability and stability. “Managed trade increases volatility, creating an unpredictable and unstable trade environment between two of the world’s largest trading partners,” stated Garneau.
While Western Canadian softwood lumber producers benefit from China’s extraordinary economic development, logistical limitations mean that Asian markets remain out of reach for Central Canadian producers. Additionally, Western Canadian softwood lumber producers’ purchase of 39 sawmills in the U.S., with a production capacity of some five billion board feet, afford them an important measure of insulation from future restrictive measures.
“To put this capacity into context, it is over 150 per cent of the total existing capacity of Ontario’s sawmills. Canadian demand is simply not enough to absorb all the production of Central Canadian sawmills,” added Garneau. “We need to be able to sell freely to the U.S. Indeed, that was the whole point of the Canada – U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA. Just about every industry enjoys free trade, except for softwood lumber.”
The 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement expired last year, and a one-year grace period expired on Oct. 12.