Softwood deal in NAFTA? Maybe, says Canada
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.