QUEBEC - The Quebec government is offering as much as $300 million in loans and loan guarantees to help protect the province's forestry sector against softwood lumber duties levied by the United States.

Three cabinet ministers made the announcement Tuesday after the Americans had said they were imposing duties of up to 24 per cent on lumber imports.

Economy Minister Dominique Anglade said the U.S. move, while expected, was both "unjustifiable" and "unreasonable."

To these duties could come anti-dumping duties expected June 23, said Raymond Chretien, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and the province's envoy on softwood lumber talks.

Chretien, who joined senior Couillard government ministers at the news conference at the legislature, said it's clear there's a hardening of American positions in all trade negotiations.

"The protectionist winds are blowing very hard in Washington," he said.

Anglade said she couldn't blame U.S. President Donald Trump's administration specifically for what was going on south of the border, noting the skirmishes over softwood lumber date back some 30 years.

"They seem to be more aggressive than in the past, but we can't simply say that's because of the new administration and we wouldn't be taking into account the whole history of the situation," she said.

The Quebec aid could go to about 200 forestry firms and would help absorb the shock of the U.S. move, at least in the short term.

At the same time, the Quebec government put pressure on Ottawa to spell out what kind of financial assistance it intends to give the province's forestry industry, which employs about 60,000 people, to avoid the possibility of thousands of job losses.

Neither Anglade nor Forestry Minister Luc Blanchette could provide a dollar amount they would be seeking from the Trudeau Liberals.

Chretien said he remains optimistic an agreement can be reached with the United States.

"Mr. Trump is a deal-maker, Mr. (U.S. secretary of commerce Wilbur) Ross is a deal-maker, and I believe there's the possibility to reach a deal," he said.