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January 24, 2012 | last updated January 26, 2012 10:20 am

U.S., Canada extend lumber export agreement

Maine stands to benefit from the United States and Canada's decision to extend a softwood lumber agreement intended to offset unfair subsidies on Canadian timber sold to lumber producers, members of Maine's congressional delegation said yesterday.

Originally signed in 2006, the agreement was set to expire in October 2013 but will be extended until 2015, according to Business Week. Its original terms -- that the United States stop imposing duties to deter unfair practices and that Canada apply export charges and volume limits on shipments into the United States when prices fall below a certain level -- are unchanged. "Maine's softwood lumber producers have been hard hit by the global economic recessions and the poor housing market," said Sen. Susan Collins. "Ensuring that Maine's mills stay competitive is essential to the well-being of the communities they support and the jobs of those who work there."

Rep. Mike Michaud said it's crucial for the agreement to be enforced, citing Canadian violations that have hurt domestic operations. In January 2011, a London international court found that Canada breached its obligations under the agreement by instituting provincial assistance programs to help the softwood lumber industry in Quebec and Ontario. The decision directed the Canadian government to come into compliance with the agreement or impose additional export charges to offset those assistance programs, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

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