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Canada and U.S. strike softwood deal


April 28, 2006
By Pulp & Paper Canada

After decades of negotiations, Canada and the U.S. have struck an agreement on the bitter, softwood lumber dispute.

After decades of negotiations, Canada and the U.S. have struck an agreement on the bitter, softwood lumber dispute.

Under the terms of the new, seven-year deal, the U.S. will pay back a minimum of $4 billion in duties to Canada, and will not saddle Canadian softwood exports with quotas or tariffs according to what Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to as, ‘current prices.’ Canada’s access to the U.S. market will be hemmed in to roughly one third.

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“Canada’s bargaining position was strong; our conditions were clear, and this agreement delivers,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. “We have a deal that defends Canada’s national interests and helps Canadian communities and workers. I commend Premiers Campbell, Charest and McGuinty for their support.”

Although the three principal lumber producing provinces, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia all signed onto the deal, contentment with the agreement is by no means panoptic.

“It is a disaster for Canada, for free trade and Canadian industry,” Reuters reported Bill Graham, leader of the official opposition Liberal party as saying.

Jack Layton, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party also voiced his disapprobation with the deal. “Accepting 80 cents on the dollar that’s a sellout,” the Washington Post reported him as saying. “Is the Prime Minister finally going to stand up to U.S. trade bullying and say no to this slap in the face?”

Some reports on the agreement have painted a strikingly grim picture, contending the deal implies Canada’s recognition of the U.S. as a stronger power, and the softwood lumber dispute one that could not be won to the satisfaction of all.

Criticism has centred on the outstanding $1 billion paid out in tariffs, capital that many Canadians believe should be repaid.

On the other side of the border, approval for the agreement is significantly more concordant, and has been given two thumbs up from the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports. “We applaud the tireless efforts of the Bush Administration officials who negotiated a means of offsetting Canadian unfair lumber practices,” the Post reported Steven Swanson, the group’s chairman as saying in a statement.


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