WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Commerce Department has revoked its duties on imports of Canadian softwood, a victory for U.S. homebuilders and consumers.
A dispute panel of the North American Free Trade Agreement had found U.S. duties on lumber imports violated the treaty, so Commerce acceded and formally deemed Canadian softwood as having a subsidy of less than 1 percent -- in effect, ending the U.S. tariffs.
Washington had claimed that Ottawa's subsidies for its softwood industry were 18.8 percent.
Still unresolved is what Washington will do with the billions it has already collected from the tariffs.
"This decision lends further support to Canada's position that the U.S. should return the (billions) in duties that have been illegally collected to date," John Allan, president of the British Columbia Lumber Trade Council, said Tuesday.
A spokesman for U.S. timber companies lamented the loss of the "essential anti-subsidy" duty.
"Lifting the countervailing duty would be devastating to U.S. lumber companies, workers, their communities, and to millions of private timberland owners across the United States," he said.
However, U.S. homebuilders, furniture makers as well as consumer groups have long opposed the duties.