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Softwood lumber negotiations pose cross-border challenge

Canada’s chief negotiator in the softwood-lumber talks with the United States says the two sides remain far apart on several key issues


 

OTTAWA – With a fall deadline approaching, Canada’s chief negotiator in the softwood-lumber talks with the United States says the two sides remain far apart on several key issues.

Martin Moen told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that negotiations for a new softwood deal have continued at an intensive pace with engagement reaching the highest levels between the countries.

But despite the efforts, Moen acknowledged that reaching a deal by the fall deadline will be a challenge.

Industry, he added, should prepare for the possibility that there will be no agreement and the risk Canada will be forced into litigation.

Failure to reach a deal by Oct. 15 — the one-year anniversary of the expiry of the old, nine-year pact — would allow U.S. producers to petition Washington to impose new duties.

Moen said without an agreement in place, Canadian officials are unsure whatU.S. industry would actually do — and when.

“Although discussions have been constructive and have led to a better understanding of each party’s positions and concerns, Canada and the U.S. — I have to be honest — we do remain far apart on several key issues,” Moen said told a special meeting of the all-party, international trade committee.

“There are considerable gaps that will need to be bridged in order for a new agreement to be concluded. Negotiations are continuing with the goal of reaching an agreement by the end of the standstill period.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken with U.S. President Barack Obama about the need to strike a new softwood lumber deal. The leaders have expressed optimism that a compromise could stave off fresh battles in the long-running softwood-lumber war.

Officials from Canada and the U.S. have met 12 times face-to-face and have held numerous teleconferences to discuss the issue, Moen said. The next meeting, he added, is scheduled for next week.

He also mentioned a few of the sticking points around the bargaining table.

They include, he said, determining an appropriate structure, for example, on how to use some combination of export charges and export quotas. This structure, he added, should be designed to maintain Canadian exports at or below an agreed U.S. market share, which is still to be negotiated.

Moen also said there are talks on meaningful regional exclusions for Atlantic provinces and the territories as well as on provisions for company exclusions, including, for example, mills sourcing inputs from the U.S. or private lands. He added that discussions are still underway about the treatment of high-value products and re-manufacturers.

He described the talks as much different than other trade deals in the sense that Ottawa is seeking a deal in which American producers would have to forgo their rights under U.S. law to seek trade action against Canadian lumber and lumber products.

“Nonetheless, Canadian stakeholders continue to tell us very clearly that no deal is better than a bad deal,” Moen said.

“We’re continuing to be intensely engaged in trying to see if a good deal is possible, however, we are preparing for all eventualities and are prepared to vigorously protect and defend the interests of softwood-lumber producers if there is a return to trade action, to litigation.”

The Conservatives proposed a motion to the committee on Thursday that sought to call on International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to establish a roundtable consisting of herself, government officials from each province and industry stakeholders. The goal was to develop a national position on a new softwood lumber deal.

But the Liberal-dominated committee voted down the motion, with Liberal MP Kyle Peterson saying it would duplicate the ongoing process and slow things down.

Tory MP Todd Doherty, who introduced the motion, said after the meeting that the government has no formal mechanism for the consultation process that he described as “disjointed.”

“We’re seeing confusion, concern and indeed division from industry from right across Canada,” said the British Columbia MP, who added his riding has mills facing closure.

“Our biggest concern is that how do you negotiate when you don’t have a national consensus as to what the starting point should be?”


 
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Softwood lumber negotiations pose cross-border challenge

  1. So the Justin-Barrack bromance was just for the cameras.

    But it looks like Justin has adopted Barrack’s warmongering ways, and is intent on sending Canada to war in Africa…sending Canadians to shoot at black people like a 19th century European imperialist. #BecauseItIs1866 #AnotherLiberalWar

    • Perhaps Trudeau has woken up to the realization that the bromance is all one sided. He is shutting down Canada’s oil industry while Obama has become the biggest producer and exporter of oil to Canada. Canada is shutting down coal mining and the US is shipping its coal to China. The US is flush is growing jobs and Canada isn’t. Obama demands more NATO spending and participation in their wars while Trudeau ran an anti-war election. He said Obama understood that he could provide air support but now he is pulling out the planes so I guess Obama didn’t really understand. Trudeau let Obama stroke his ego and got completely snowed. Has to be somewhat embarrassing. Maybe he won’t be so naive when it comes to making other deals with the US.

      • That should have said Obama understood Trudeau couldn’t provide air support due to election promises.

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