Canadian lumber to spend $20m on US public affairs campaign

WASHINGTON: Canada's lumber exporters are preparing a $20million PR and lobbying campaign to repeal a painful new American tax,and resolve an issue that has been a thorn in the side of US-Canadarelations for nearly two decades.

WASHINGTON: Canada's lumber exporters are preparing a $20 million PR and lobbying campaign to repeal a painful new American tax, and resolve an issue that has been a thorn in the side of US-Canada relations for nearly two decades.

American lumber companies have long complained that their Canadian counterparts benefit from unfair government subsidies that allow them to sell their goods in the US at uncompetitive prices. Vigorous lobbying for higher taxes in imports has often been successful, including the most recent 27% tariff imposed as of May.

Canadian companies say that this unfairly restricts business, as they rely on the US to consume more than half their lumber.

In order to have this new tariff removed and win American sympathy, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) - funded by a $17 million grant from the Canadian federal government - will mount a PR and lobbying assault from within America's own borders. Seventeen Washington, DC agencies received an RFP earlier this month seeking proposals on a maximum two-year, $10 million annual campaign targeting Congress, the White House, and the American public.

"We just think that it's beyond the pale that they're approaching this as a PR problem, said Scott Shotwell, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, a US-based group that supports the new tax. "It's much more serious than how they are portraying it."

Although his group has neither the plans nor the funding to counter the FPAC's campaign at this time, Shotwell and US lumber companies already enjoy strong support in Congress, especially from Senators representing lumber-producing states.

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