Vive Le Canada

Lumber group files suit against NAFTA
Date: Thursday, September 15 2005

September 14, 2005

Lumber group files suit against NAFTA

WASHINGTON -- A group representing the U.S. lumber industry filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the constitutionality of a dispute settlement system under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The group, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, said the free-trade agreement allows U.S.-Canadian panels to make binding decisions applying U.S. law to federal actions regarding unfair trade. The group called that contrary to due process and other constitutional requirements.


"The constitution does not permit these panels to be the final arbiter of whether U.S. law provides for relief from unfair subsidies and dumping for U.S. producers and workers," said Steve Swanson, the group's chairman.

The lawsuit is the latest step in an ongoing dispute between the United States and Canada over steep U.S. tariffs imposed on imports of Canadian softwood lumber used in home construction.

The tariffs, which average 27%, were put in place at the urging of the domestic lumber industry, which contended it was losing thousands of jobs because of unfair subsidies provided to Canadian producers.

Canada's International Trade Minister Jim Peterson condemned the lawsuit and said Ottawa would defend its rights under NAFTA.

"This is nothing more than a veiled attempt by the U.S. coalition to undo the softwood victories that Canada has achieved through the NAFTA," Peterson said. "We stand ready to vigorously defend the NAFTA and we will take all steps open to us to ensure it is respected."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said he was still reviewing the complaint.

"However, the United States firmly believes that the dispute settlement procedure in the NAFTA ... complies with the constitution," spokeswoman Neena Moorjani said in a statement.

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