US, Canada working on softwood lumber deal, big differences still remain

Photo by Horia Varlan, Flickr Creative Commons

FORT ST JOHN, B.C. – US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a joint statement yesterday regarding the softwood lumber deal.

“The United States and Canada have made important progress in our negotiations, but significant differences remain.”

The current deal expires in fall of this year. That deal was struck in 2006.

In a meeting in March in Washington, Trudeau said a breakthrough could be a possibility in the coming “weeks and months”.

There hasn’t been that much traction however after Canadian Trade Minister Chrystial Freeland and US Trade Representative Michael Froman failed to meet the June 18th deadline to come up with a frame work for a potential deal.

The BC Lumber Trade Council released a statement saying they are pleased the governments are working together to hopefully achieve a new deal.

Susan Yurkovich said that she is hopeful for a new deal.

“British Columbia lumber producers are pleased that the Canadian and U.S. Governments have committed to continue intensive discussions with a view to achieving a renewed agreement on softwood lumber by the fall of this year.”

They also went on to say that they are happy that all parties involved have stepped up to the plate to contribute.

“We recognize that these discussions are challenging and greatly appreciate the leadership of the Prime Minister, Minister Freeland and Premier Clark on this issue. They have made achieving an agreement on softwood lumber a top priority and we know they will continue these efforts until a new agreement is reached.”

Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson also released a statement today, saying that he also is hopeful that the two countries can reach a deal.

“British Columbia appreciates that the federal government continues to make finding a negotiated solution to Canada-U.S. lumber trade a top priority. I am heartened to see that both Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama have committed to maintain an intensive pace of engagement with a view to exploring approaches to achieve a mutually acceptable agreement by this fall.

The two leaders have also recognized the need for regional provisions and flexibility in any negotiated agreement. We remain hopeful that an equitable agreement will be reached that will provide stability and business certainty for lumber producers on both sides of the border.

A managed trade agreement is preferable to U.S. trade action, which would be disruptive and costly for lumber producers, for Canada and provincial governments, and ultimately harm U.S. consumers.

If a reasonable negotiated settlement cannot be reached, B.C. is confident that, working with the federal government, it will successfully defend its market-based forest policies against any U.S. trade action brought by the U.S. against Canada, as it has done in the past.”

Many jobs are at stake if a agreement is not reached. BC lists Forestry as a key economic driver in over 140 communities in BC. In 2015, B.C.’s forest sector supported over 65,000 direct jobs.