The U.S. Commerce Department has finalized the softwood lumber import duties it’s imposing on several Canadian firms. Most producers will pay a combined rate of 20.83 per cent, which is down from the 26.75 per cent that was discussed earlier this year.

In a release, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the two countries and their lumber industries haven’t been able to reach a long-term settlement to the ongoing trade dispute.

“While I am disappointed that a negotiated agreement could not be made between domestic and Canadian softwood producers, the United States is committed to free, fair and reciprocal trade with Canada,” he says, “This decision is based on a full and unbiased review of the facts in an open and transparent process that defends American workers and businesses from unfair trade practices.”

The U.S. government claims that Canadian producers use unfair trading practices by selling less than fair value and getting subsidies between 3.34 per cent and 18.19 per cent. The Canadian government has responded, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr calling the duties “unfair, unwarranted and deeply troubling” in a joint statement.

“We urge the U.S. Administration to rescind these duties, which harm workers and communities in Canada,” they say. “We are reviewing our options, including legal action through the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization, and we will not delay in taking action.”

Alberta Softwood Trade Council co-chair Paul Whittaker echoes that sentiment, saying it appears the only way to resolve the problem is legal action.

“Ironically, these punitive duties may end up hurting U.S. consumers and workers the most by artificially restricting the supply of lumber, raising prices, and pricing many Americans out of home ownership,” he says. “The largest benefactor of this decision will be producers from other countries, including Russia, Germany, and Sweden who will benefit from artificially higher prices and being exempt from any duties.”

In another joint statement, Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier and Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous point out that this is the fifth time since 1982 that the U.S. has made these claims, but each time international tribunals have found Canada’s practices to be fair.

“We are confident that we will be vindicated yet again. These actions will drive lumber prices much higher in the U.S., will hurt their own people economically, cripple job creation, natural disaster recovery and hamper home ownership.”

Canfor will pay the second highest duties at 22.13 per cent, down from 27.98 per cent.