WASHINGTON - New Brunswick's premier says he remains cautiously optimistic the United States will provide his province with relief from hefty tariffs on softwood lumber exports.

Brian Gallant and Maine Governor Paul LePage met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. in Washington Wednesday.

It's the third meeting Gallant has had with Ross in the last year.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced last November that New Brunswick softwood lumber producers, who had been exempt from U.S. tariffs in the past, will now have to pay 20.83 per cent duty, although producers in the rest of Atlantic Canada will be exempt.

Forestry giant J.D. Irving will pay a lower rate -- 9.92 per cent.

Gallant says he's confident New Brunswick can get rid of the tariffs through litigation, but says that could take years, and some mills can't wait that long.