FREDERICTON (GNB) – Premier Brian Gallant and Maine Governor Paul LePage met with United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. today in Washington.

During the meeting, they discussed softwood lumber, trade and the continuing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations.

Ross, a senior member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, is responsible for negotiating the Softwood Lumber Agreement. This is Gallant’s third meeting with Ross in the past year.

“This meeting was an opportunity to once again discuss why the duties against New Brunswick’s softwood lumber producers are unfair and unwarranted,” said Gallant. “Governor LePage and I made the case as to why the tariffs on New Brunswick lumber hurt the American economy.”

In November, the provincial government announced measures to combat what it considers to be unfair trade actions undertaken by the United States government against New Brunswick’s softwood lumber industry. These measures include:

  • working to improve and develop strategic corridors to improve transportation efficiency for industries, including the forest industry.
  • working to enhance innovation in the forestry industry through increased research, expanding opportunities like biomass and biofuels, and by promoting the markets that exist for value-added wood products from New Brunswick, consistent with New Brunswick’s obligations under international trade agreements.
  • working to protect the forest sector by increasing its efforts to monitor and combat the threat of spruce budworm through continued partnerships with industry and the federal government.
  • working with industry to find new export markets and reduce reliance upon trade with the United States.
  • engaging an expert firm to conduct a review of the New Brunswick forestry market and, if warranted, make appropriate recommendations to address matters relative to New Brunswick that are currently the subject of the softwood lumber trade dispute.

“We continue to stand by our New Brunswick lumber producers and the communities who rely on this important sector, and are working hard to fight the duties imposed by the United States,” said Gallant.

Gallant and other government representatives have been meeting with the federal and American governments and advocating in support of New Brunswick’s softwood lumber industry since 2014. The provincial government has made submissions to the United States Department of Commerce to demonstrate that New Brunswick has an open, fair and undistorted market for timber.

David Wilkins, a former United States ambassador to Canada from 2005 to 2009, was named New Brunswick’s special envoy on trade and softwood lumber in May 2017 and has been working to advance New Brunswick’s interests in Washington.

Treasury Board President Roger Melanson was in Boston in April 2017, discussing the matter with officials of the Massachusetts state government, and did the same during an advocacy mission to Augusta, Maine, earlier that month. Deputy premier Stephen Horsman was in China as part of an economic and advocacy initiative in the spring of 2017, promoting New Brunswick’s softwood lumber industry to help businesses diversify. Energy and Resource Development Minister Rick Doucet took part in a followup mission to China last month.

“Trade and Canada-U.S. relations continue to be top of mind for New Brunswickers,” said Gallant. “We will continue to work together and advocate for a resolution to ongoing trade issues between our countries.”

The latest round of NAFTA negotiations took place recently in Montreal. The seventh round is scheduled to begin on Feb. 26 in Mexico.

The provincial government has been working with the federal government, providing information on how NAFTA affects New Brunswickers and their interests.