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Home builders right on Canadian lumber dispute

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U.S. President George W. Bush should stop playing games with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the U.S. government should start paying back the estimated $4-5 billion in excess and illegal duties it has collected -- one might even say stolen -- from Canadian softwood lumber exporters since 2002. The U.S. government's position is intended to protect U.S. lumber companies from legal imports of cheaper Canadian softwood lumber. But the position is a sad example of misguided domestic politics and should be abandoned. While it may indeed protect lumber interests, it also hurts U.S. home builders and buyers, sends the wrong signal on trade agreements to other countries and has become a true hot-button among Canadians. In Canada, the details of the lumber dispute are common knowledge and front-page news. (A background report prepared by Canada's CBC News summarizes the history of the dispute from the Canadian point of view.) The dispute has been going on for several yea...