High Lumber Prices Add Urgency to a Decades-Old Trade Fight



Thomas Kaplan | NY Times

A trade dispute over Canadian lumber that began when Ronald Reagan was president has become a political problem for President Biden, with home builders and members of Congress urging the administration to try to strike a deal that could help bring down the cost of critical building materials.

Lumber prices remain far above prepandemic levels, even after falling sharply in recent weeks, an increase driven in part by strong housing demand and an abundance of home improvement projects during the pandemic. The higher-than-normal prices are among a wide range of supply chain complications that have cropped up as the economy picks up steam.
But unlike other commodities that have been in short supply, lumber is also the subject of a long-running trade dispute between the United States and Canada, adding a layer of diplomatic intrigue to the scramble for in-demand building materials.

The two countries are locked in a thorny disagreement over softwood lumber, which is widely used to build single-family homes.

In the latest chapter of the dispute, the Trump administration in 2017 imposed duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports in response to what it deemed unfair trade practices. Now, with lumber prices driving up the cost of new home construction, the Biden administration is facing pressure to seek a resolution to the long-running spat.

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