Trade deal doesn’t fix U.S. lumber issue: Harper

Trans-Pacific Partnership won't end softwood lumber tradeoffs, or remove restrictions on log exports from B.C.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement doesn’t resolve Canada’s long-running dispute with the United States over softwood lumber, or remove restrictions on log exports from B.C.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday the Canadian government would like to renew the Canada-U.S. softwood agreement, expired as of Thanksgiving Day. It’s a side deal outside the North American Free Trade Agreement, and it won’t be covered by the proposed TPP deal either.

“Obviously we would like to see this agreement move forward, and I think industry on both sides of the border would, but for reasons that were not entirely clear, the American administration hasn’t seen it that way,” Harper said in an interview with Black Press.

“In terms of forestry, what the TPP does do is provide new tariff-free access to many Asian countries, including enhanced access to the Japanese market.”

Restrictions on log exports from B.C. are also not eased by the TPP, which includes Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia. B.C.’s control over Crown land log prices has long been an irritant with the U.S. and Japan, while private and aboriginal land log producers are restricted by federal rules.

“B.C. was able to ensure that both provincial and federal log export controls will not change as a result of the TPP, despite pressure from Japan to eliminate them,” B.C. International Trade Minister Teresa Wat said in a statement. “B.C.’s objectives for the forestry sector during the TPP negotiations were to gain market access for forestry products to important TPP markets such as Japan, while maintaining existing log export controls.”

Premier Christy Clark said this week her first call to Ottawa after the Oct. 19 federal election will be about continuing the U.S. softwood lumber talks.

The tentative TPP deal was reached after all-night negotiations in Atlanta last weekend, after talks in Hawaii were expected to settle it before Canada’s election campaign.

Harper said he expected NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to oppose the TPP, but finds it “incredible” that Pacific Rim trade would be opposed in the 21st Century.

“The Liberals will support the deal,” Harper predicted. “This is what they always do, they hum and haw, but they sent the signals and they always eventually support it. But they never actually get trade deals done.”

 

 

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