Biden seeks to raise tariffs on Candian lumber as prices continue to soar

As home builders and consumers alike continue to contend with rapidly soaring lumber costs, the Biden administration has affirmed its intention to double tariffs imposed on Canadian softwood products, as the Washington Examiner reports, a decision that could price increasing numbers of American consumers out of the new home market for the foreseeable future.

The move was announced by President Joe Biden’s Commerce Department late last week, and it would have the effect of raising tariffs on Canadian wood from 8.99% all the way to 18.32%, as Patrick Tyrrell of the Heritage Foundation noted, at a time when lumber costs have increased by a startling 275% since April of last year, according to the Examiner.

In response to the administration’s decision, Chuck Fowke of the National Association of Home Builders said, “At a time when soaring lumber prices have added nearly $36,000 to the price of a new home…the Biden administration’s preliminary finding…to double the tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments…shows that White House does not care about the plight of American home buyers and renters who have been forced to pay much higher costs for housing.”

Fowke added that “The administration should be ashamed for casting its lot with special interest groups and abandoning the interests of the American people” and also asserted that the tariff increase will “further exacerbate the nation’s housing affordability crisis, put even more upward pressure on the price of lumber and force millions of U.S. homebuyers and lumber consumers to foot the bill for this ill-conceived protectionist action.”

Canadian minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, Mary Ng, also condemned the move, stating, “U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber products are a tax on the American people. They make housing less affordable for Americans and hinder economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” as the Heritage Foundation further noted.

Having achieved prior success in fighting increased U.S. lumber tariffs, Ng added, “We will keep challenging these unwarranted and damaging duties through all available avenues,” stating that Canada “remains confident that a negotiated solution…is not only possible, but in the best interest of both our countries.”

Not surprisingly, representatives of American lumber product manufacturers welcomed the news of the tariff boost, with Jason Brochu of the U.S. Lumber Coalition stating, “A level playing field is a critical element for continued investment and growth for U.S. lumber manufacturing to meet strong building demand and build more American homes.”

Brochu added, “More lumber being manufactured in America to meet domestic demand is a direct result of the trade enforcement, and we strongly urge the administration to continue this enforcement.”

As is often the case, as Tyrrell pointed out, policies such as the one just announced by the Biden administration may succeed in benefiting the few domestic lumber companies capable of commanding higher prices during a time of limited supply, but in the end, it is the American consumer who will likely suffer the most.