Offers by Canadian provincial governments to assist local lumber industries put the country at risk of violating a landmark agreement on lumber trade reached with the United States last fall after a decades-long feud, a US trade official has said.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab voiced those “growing concerns” in a private letter last month to Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson, an official in Schwab’s office said on condition of anonymity.

Washington believes that kind of help would run afoul of the deal to normalize softwood lumber trade, which “would be troubling, particularly so early in the life of the agreement,” the official said, but declined to give further details.

Both nations are set to gather in Washington within days for a status check on the deal.

Murmurs of discontent among US officials bode poorly for a deal billed as a way to halt decades of lawsuits at the World Trade Organization, the US Court of International Trade, North American Free Trade Agreement panels and elsewhere.

The agreement refunds to Canada $4.3 billion in US lumber duties and hands members of a US business coalition $500 million. It requires the United States to halt import duties imposed for years to offset what it characterized as Canada’s unfair state support of its lumber industry.

Even as the ink dried, though, some analysts and lawyers with a hand in dispute were skeptical the row was truly over.

US officials hope to discuss those concerns in an already scheduled meeting later this week of a bi-national committee set up to monitor the deal. It will be the group’s first meeting. (Reuters)