US housing starts have pretty much maintained a flat pace since the expiration of the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) last October. All things considered, this has been a good thing for both US and Canadian lumber manufacturers, as both sides are still operating within the one-year period when their respective governments are prohibited from taking unilateral action. As is often the case with such complex agreements, a period of doing nothing is preferable to doing the wrong thing as a reactionary measure. That said, we are quickly coming to the end of the one-year “cooling off” period, which has prompted leaders from both nations to address the issue.
Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a joint statement on the SLA saying that they have “instructed the United States Trade Representative and the Canadian Minister of International Trade to intensively explore all options and report back on the key features that would address the issue.” The statement notes that both representatives and their teams have been meeting diligently over the past three months, and, while these discussions have been challenging, they have also been productive.