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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
In some parts of the world, a company can get in a heap of trouble by trying to fight the government. Not so much in North America. Not even when the government is in the country next door. The family-owned businesses of Irving Paper, J.D. Irving Ltd. and Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd., headquartered in New Brunswick, are not the least bit afraid of the US Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. They are fighting the US government for relief from what they consider punishing trade duties levied against them over supercalendered paper made in St. John.

Irving was caught in a net cast by the US government when the Obama administration investigated a complaint filed by American papermakers about the $124 million Nova Scotia government bailout of the Port Hawkesbury mill in 2012. The US trade action also ensnared Catalyst Paper and Resolute Forest Products, which were each slapped with duties of 11.19%, while Irving Paper had to face an 18.85% duty. The US Department of Commerce views certain items on a long list of tax breaks provided to Irving as countervailing subsidies. US Customs and Border Patrol agents began collecting the duties from American buyers in 2015, in effect driving up the price of the Canadian products in the US.

Canadian provincial and federal governments have filed documents supporting Irving and are also appearing before a tribunal to argue that the duties violate the North American Free Trade Agreement. That case was heard before a NAFTA arbitration panel last October, and its decision is still pending. New Brunswick government spokesperson Bonnie Doyle-Creber said, "Irving Paper is a major economic player in New Brunswick and a critical contributor to the overall forestry industry in the province. For this reason, the provincial government supported Irving Paper in its effort to reduce the countervailing duty on supercalendered paper imported into the U.S."

Chuck Swann is Senior Editor of Paperitalo Publications.

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