DESPITE A DECISION ANNOUNCED IN December by the Commerce Department to cut tariffs on Canadian lumber from 27.2 percent to 21.2 percent, Canadian officials denounced the decision and said they would challenge it. The cross-border dispute continues after a preliminary U.S. decision recommended that tariffs be cut in half for easy-to-saw pine, spruce, and other softwood lumber used to build homes.

According to the NAHB, home building and remodeling account for two-thirds of domestic lumber consumption. Plus, lumber accounts for a larger share of the cost of a home than any of the other materials used by home builders. Canadian lumber imports are essential to constructing affordable new homes in America.

The decision by the U.S. will result in refunds on deposits Canadian exporters made during the 2002 and 2003 periods and will lower future deposits Canadian mills make roughly $4.6 billion a year worth of timber imports to the U.S. To date, the tariffs have cost Canadian producers more than $3.6 billion.

“The goal is to come up with an arrangement where both sides are comfortable with Canada's timber pricing system, which would allow the current duties on Canadian lumber to be terminated,” said NAHB president Bobby Rayburn during negotiations last year. “We strongly oppose any new measures that would impose a border tax on Canadian lumber because this would just substitute one tax on American consumers for another.”