May 16, 2006

US, Canada lumber deal finalized soon: USTR nominee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Canada will
finalize details on a deal to end a decades-long row over
lumber trade in the coming weeks, President George W. Bush's
choice to be U.S. trade representative said on Tuesday.

"All the details are being worked out. We hope to get it
done as soon as possible, within the next few weeks, and have a
final signed document," current Deputy U.S. Trade
Representative Susan Schwab told her Senate Finance Committee
confirmation hearing.

"We are working to make sure that we put in place a
workable solution," she added.

The United States and Canada have been at odds for decades
over U.S. imports of Canadian softwood lumber. Canada ships
about $6 billion in softwood lumber such as spruce, fir and
pine to the United States each year.

Washington had slapped duties on the imports, saying
Ottawa's below-market logging rates represent an unfair subsidy
-- a charge denied by Canada.

However, the two countries unveiled an agreement at the end
of April to settle their long-standing fight. Under the deal,
U.S. duties on Canadian lumber would end and some $4 billion
would be refunded, while Canada's share of the U.S. softwood
market would be capped at 34 percent.

Schwab, who was lead U.S. negotiator in the lumber talks,
is replacing current U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who
is moving to White House to become budget director.