Despite a broad consensus, there’s no time to waste in moving toward renewing or renegotiating the now-expired Softwood Lumber agreement with the Americans, there’s no evidence of any progress of that nature.
Officials in both countries appear to blaming each other for the failure to open negotiations, with the BC government arguing the Americans have ignored Canada’s offer to kick start the talks, and the US Lumber Coalition reversing the criticism.
The 2006 deal expired on October 12th, and there are concerns the US will move to offset what the Coalition views as the unfair advantages it provided to Canadian industry.
It ended half a decade of courtroom bickering, which can hopefully be avoided now, but Forest Minister Steve Thomson has already let it be known the BC government is preparing for the possibility of another round of trade action.
The expired agreement had a stand-still clause leaving its terms in place for one more year.
Still, the NDP spokesman on the file agrees with Mr. Thomson that the new negotiations are a top priority and he backs Premier Clark’s commitment to get the new federal government to move quickly on it.
Bruce Ralston has been the Surrey-Whalley MLA since the former deal was signed back in 2006.
How important? Well, BC is Canada’s largest producer of softwood lumber and the value of its annual exports to the US, still our biggest market, is about $3 billion.
And if that isn’t enough to get Justin Trudeau’s attention, Mr. Ralston adds, lumber exports to the US are also very important to Quebec.