U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will meet today with Canadian lumber industry representatives to discuss the softwood lumber agreement, reports Ross Marowits for BNN.ca. The meeting is just a week before the end of the "one-year standstill period" which prohibits either country from issuing trade suits for the year following the expiration of the 2006 softwood lumber agreement.

Despite the looming Oct. 12 deadline, the U.S. and Canada have yet to draw up another softwood lumber agreement. Marowits reports that the prospects of drafting a new agreement that will benefit Canada are not good:

Few industry observers expect the Americans will budge from their quest for quotas to reduce Canada's share of the U.S. softwood lumber market.

Canada has traditionally accounted for about one-third of the U.S. lumber market, but the U.S. is rumoured to want that to gradually decrease to 22 per cent, said Richard Garneau, CEO of Quebec-based Resolute Forest Products.

"It will be impossible for Canada to accept that," he said. ...

After the expiry of the previous softwood lumber deal in 1996, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a 32 per cent export duty, which was reduced to about 27 per cent in 2002 and remained at that level until a new agreement was reached four years later.

Garneau called on Ottawa to provide Canadian lumber producers loan guarantees and funding to offset anticipated legal costs and duties.

"We need assistance to defend ourselves against these abusive methods the U.S. has on trade."

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