Soft­wood deal in NAFTA? Maybe, says Canada

Medicine Hat News - - NATION - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON Canada is pre­pared to pur­sue a per­ma­nent set­tle­ment in soft­wood lum­ber within the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment if the U.S. lum­ber in­dus­try keeps block­ing a deal, Canada’s am­bas­sador to the U.S. sug­gested Thurs­day.

David MacNaughton ex­pressed frus­tra­tion at the in­dus­try us­ing what is ef­fec­tively its veto power to block any deal be­tween the na­tional govern­ments and he raised the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing around it to achieve a long-term so­lu­tion.

Free trade in soft­wood lum­ber has never been part of any con­ti­nen­tal trade pact and the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has been wary of in­ject­ing it into this cur­rent ne­go­ti­a­tion, fear­ful that adding a con­tentious is­sue would make the al­ready com­plex talks that much more dif­fi­cult. But that could change. “We’re open to any­thing that’s go­ing to re­solve it. Be­cause it’s just crazy right now,” MacNaughton said, when asked about adding soft­wood into NAFTA.

“I’m pre­pared to look at any­thing that’s go­ing to re­solve it. I just think it’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to put an­other thing — an­other con­tentious el­e­ment into NAFTA. I think we’re bet­ter off to re­solve it out­side of the NAFTA frame­work.”

The rea­son the U.S. in­dus­try has veto power over any deal is that part of any soft­wood agree­ment would re­quire it to sign away its right to launch trade ac­tions against Canada.

The Amer­i­can in­dus­try al­leges un­fair sub­si­dies in Canada and about once a decade launches trade ac­tions, which lead to du­ties on lum­ber im­ports, higher prices, and years of in­ter­na­tional lit­i­ga­tion, be­fore there’s a new tem­po­rary deal.

David MacNaughton

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