Skip to main content

Canadian producers of cedar shakes and shingles are seeking to fend off new U.S. tariffs, waging war against the Trump administration more than three decades after Ronald Reagan imposed duties that lasted five years on the wood-roofing materials.

Canadian firms say the products have been unfairly targeted with duties of 20.23 per cent. They have formed a group, the Shake and Shingle Alliance, to oppose their inclusion in the U.S. tariffs on softwood lumber.

The group’s members “were caught off guard” by the surprise addition of their products three months ago to the dispute over softwood lumber, according to a 55-page submission from the alliance this week to the U.S. Department of Commerce that asks for Canadian shakes and shingles to be exempt from tariffs.

Story continues below advertisement

“We request that the Department expedite to the greatest possible extent its review of this request and render a decision at the earliest possible time to prevent further injury,” the alliance said in its document, addressed to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Related: Canada, U.S. set sights on summer NAFTA talks

Opinion: From Canada, to our U.S. friends: Might is not always right

The U.S. customs and border agency told the companies in a notice on March 15 that wood products that are tapered to less than six millimetres in thickness at one end are not necessarily exempt from the softwood tariffs.

A lawyer for the alliance raised Canada’s concerns, including opposition to the inclusion of wood products that are thinner than lumber, during a May 24 meeting with Commerce Department officials.

Late last year, the United States decided to levy final duties averaging 20.23 per cent against most Canadian lumber producers.

A dozen Canadian companies have joined the alliance, which said producers in three provinces were targeted without any warning. The notice from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection about the new tariffs came 10 weeks after the final duties against Canadian lumber took effect on Jan. 3, the filings show.

Story continues below advertisement

“CSS [cedar shakes and shingles] constitute a separate and distinct product and industry,” the alliance said in its submission dated June 12, arguing that U.S. border officials can easily tell the difference between the roofing products and the “subject merchandise” of softwood lumber. “CSS are easily distinguishable from subject merchandise at the border and cannot feasibly be used in place of, or further manufactured into, subject merchandise.”

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said the B.C. government backs Canadian producers. “It’s outrageous that shakes and shingles are considered by the U.S. to be ‘lumber.’ We support them in their request to be excluded from the tariffs,” Mr. Donaldson said in a statement on Thursday to The Globe and Mail.

The Reagan administration put a 35-per-cent duty on Canadian cedar shakes and shingles in May, 1986. “Actions like this make it extremely difficult for anyone, including Canadians, to be friends with the Americans from time to time,” then-prime minister Brian Mulroney said.

Mr. Mulroney’s government imposed tariffs a month later on U.S. items including books, computer components and Christmas trees.

The Americans gradually reduced the duties against shakes and shingles, ending them in June, 1991.

Five of the alliance’s members are based in British Columbia, four in Quebec and three in New Brunswick. They include Best Quality Cedar Products Ltd. in Maple Ridge, B.C., Fraser Specialty Products Ltd. in Fredericton and Les Bardeaux Lajoie Inc. in Saint-Eusèbe, Que.

Story continues below advertisement

“We respectfully submit that CSS are not softwood lumber,” the alliance said. “CSS are a separate and distinct product that is manufactured directly from cedar logs in dedicated mills, using specialized equipment not used in the manufacture of softwood lumber.”

Explainer: NAFTA’s saga so far: A guide to trade, the talks and Trump

The alliance said the U.S. lumber lobby did not list shakes and shingles among its concerns in the dispute. Canadian producers say members of the influential U.S. group COALITION, which stands for Committee Overseeing Action for Lumber International Trade Investigations or Negotiations, do not even manufacture shakes and shingles.

“Cedar shakes and shingles are specialized, high-end products used on the roof and sides of residential and commercial buildings, to create a desired architectural style,” the alliance said in its filing to the Commerce Department. “We respectfully request that the Department take administrative notice of the fact that past Department investigations involving softwood lumber have expressly identified shakes and shingles as an industry separate from softwood lumber.”

The latest cross-border clash over softwood is the fifth round in the fight dating back to 1982.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says tariffs imposed on Canada by the U.S. on the grounds of national security are protectionism 'pure and simple.' Freeland was speaking at a ceremony in Washington D.C. where she was given an award as diplomat of the year.
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter