WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s top international trade official has agreed to look into whether a Canadian financial package to restart a Nova Scotia paper mill violates trade agreements and threatens Maine papermaking jobs.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said recent news reports about the Canadian government’s $125 million rescue package for a mill in Port Hawkesbury raises “troubling questions about potential injurious” subsidies to the mill.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-District 2, Kirk said he has directed his staff to look into the terms of the deal to ensure they are compliant with Canada’s commitments under the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization.

Kirk said U.S. officials will also raise the issue later this month at a WTO Committee on Subsidies meeting.

“I can assure you that we will work speedily to obtain the facts of this matter,” Kirk wrote. “Based on what we find, we will consider all feasible and effective options – doing so aware that this is a time sensitive matter.”

Michaud had raised questions about the Canadian aid package to Pacific West Commercial, the company interested in restarting the former NewPage mill in Port Hawkesbury.

“The package reportedly includes millions of dollars in forgivable loans, more than a million dollars for worker training, reduced energy costs, funds to maintain the supply of wood fiber, land purchases, among other forms of assistance,” Michaud wrote in a letter dated Sept. 26. “Maine’s paper industry believes the size and scope of Nova Scotia’s assistance is likely to lead to a decreased market share for the state’s mills.”

 

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