Jim Peterson has been named Ontario’s softwood lumber negotiator.
The former federal cabinet for international trade, who was part of the negotiating team on the previous lumber agreement, is expected to play a “key role” in ongoing talks, according to a provincial news release.
His appointment comes immediately after the U.S. was preparing to impose countervailing duties on Canadian lumber exporters that could range between three and 24 per cent, and could impact some of Canada’s biggest producers, including Resolute Forest Products.
The Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement expired on Oct. 12, 2015.
Federal natural resources minister Jim Carr and foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa will “vigorously defend” the industry’s interests through litigation.
“In ruling after ruling since 1983, international tribunals have disproved the unfounded subsidy and injury allegations from the U.S. industry. We have prevailed in the past and we will do so again.”
The forestry industry in Ontario supports 172,000 jobs and generates more than $15.5 billion in annual revenue.
"Having dealt with the Softwood IV negotiations, I’m well aware of the complexities and competing interests and feel confident I can fight for a good deal for Ontario,” said Peterson in a statement.
“As we continue to fight for fair trade practices with our U.S. neighbours, Jim will be a real asset to Ontario at the negotiation table,” said provincial natural resources and forestry minister Kathryn McGarry.
In an April 24 release, the province repeated its call for federal action to protect people and communities that would be negatively impacted by U.S. trade actions through a loan guarantee program for Canadian companies.