Others Say: Trump, timber and trade

Many Americans in extractive industries, and in the regions dependent on them, voted for Donald Trump. These regions — whether in Appalachia or Southern Oregon — are among the poorest in the country, and have the worst government services. Call the county sheriff’s office in Douglas County, for instance, and you’re likely to get an answering machine.

These regions and people have been left behind by the American political class. They’ve also been actively targeted by a more environmentally conscious world, automation and new technology, and cheaper, less-regulated competition from abroad.

So they elected Trump. And last week, the new president said he would impose a 20 percent tariff on imported Canadian softwood lumber. Surprisingly, it makes our northern neighbor — not Mexico or China — the expected first target of Trump’s protectionist policies.

The U.S. purchases about 80 percent of such lumber produced in Canada at a cost of about $6 billion a year, according to Canadian government data. For those of us in timber-rich Oregon, there is a real opportunity to take advantage of the new tariffs on imported products. For American consumers and homebuilders, prepare to see higher prices at your local lumber store.

But this is the perfect opportunity for Trump to try out his overall policies. A federal investigation found that Canada was unfairly subsidizing its timber business, allowing its companies to undercut U.S. competitors. Trump has long argued that the U.S. has been on the wrong end of bad deals, allowing other countries to get one over on us. Trump’s predecessor agreed that in this case that Canada was being unfair, but the two countries had been unable to reach an agreement on the matter.

If timber bounces back in the U.S., you can imagine Trump and his administration promoting similar protectionist policies on an array of imported goods. For a Republican Party that has long been cemented behind free trade, that is a quick about-face. But with Trump in control, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is already dead. Perhaps NAFTA is next in his sights.

Right now, Oregon’s many trees have become more marketable.

The East Oregonian



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