US lumber duties to have far reaching effect

22 May 2017

Donald Trump is certainly making his mark on the world during his first six months in office.

Some brinksmanship with North Korea, continual tension in his relationship with the US security services and moves to repeal Obamacare are now being followed by him giving the green light for import duties on Canadian softwood lumber.

News that the US has imposed preliminary import duties of up to 24% in the simmering softwood lumber trade dispute, with potentially more to come in the shape of anti-dumping tariffs, is having repercussions for the timber supply chain well beyond North America.

I was visiting sawmills in southern Sweden during March to assess developments there and the subject of the US market and how new duties on Canadian lumber may play out was a source of frequent conversation.

With US lumber prices currently high and Canada looking to see if it can switch some of its volumes to other non-US markets in the event of crippling duties, Swedish producers are preparing to export bigger volumes to the US.

One Swedish mill I visited had set up a separate area on its site for US volumes.

And with Swedish mills also talking China up – regular delegations from Asia are touring southern Sweden – their message was pretty clear. UK customers needed to commit to price increases if they wanted to ensure the same volumes.

According to Wood Resource Quarterly, it’s not just Sweden that is targeting the US.

New Zealand and Latin American softwood lumber exports to the US are also expected to increase. In this issue we have a comprehensive update on the North America wood products sector, with US hardwoods currently performing well despite currency movements and the US softwood industry continuing its overseas marketing focus.

Some inspiring examples of US hardwoods being used in construction include glulam beams at Lords Cricket Ground’s new Warner stand.

Meanwhile, entries are now open for the judged categories in this year’s TTJ Awards.

This includes the Innovation Award, with TRADA’s Rupert Scott outlining this year’s competition on page 48, while new category the Structural Timber Systems Supplier of the Year is also launched.

With timber construction continuing to grow and consume large volumes of wood, it’s the right time to recognise the sector with an award of its own.

The award, in association with the Structural Timber Association, also further underlines the TTJ Awards as an event that brings both traders and manufacturers together.