Softwood lumber talks continue despite sticking points
By Brandi Cohen
By Brandi Cohen
Negotiations for a new softwood lumber deal between Canada and the United States have been “challenging but productive,” according to a joint statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama.
The statement, issued on Wednesday, said negotiators on both sides have been “meeting diligently” over the past three months.
“The U.S. and Canadian federal governments have made significant advances in understanding our industries’ sensitivities and priorities since March. The United States and Canada are working together to find a path forward that reflects our shared goals and that results in durable and equitable solutions for softwood lumber producers from both countries,” the statement read.
“A new softwood lumber agreement will need to reflect the realities of Canadian timber management policies and the U.S. domestic market. A new agreement must be equitable and provide a predictable business environment that gives producers on both sides of our border the ability to react confidently to changing market conditions. Any agreement must deliver a durable and equitable solution and benefit softwood lumber producers from Canada and the United States, related industries and consumers, and support the overall economic well-being of both countries. On the basis of discussions to date, our governments are committed to working to achieve such an agreement.”
The statement also outlined key features negotiations are focused on, including:
- An appropriate structure, designed to maintain Canadian exports at or below an agreed U.S. market share to be negotiated, with the stability, consistency and flexibility necessary to achieve the confidence of both industries;
- Provisions for region or company exclusions if justified;
- Provisions promoting regional policies that eliminate the underlying causes of trade frictions, including a regional exits process that is meaningful, effective and timely, recognizing that should an exit be granted, it would be reversible if the circumstances justifying the exit change;
- Provisions to ensure information collection and exchange to create meaningful transparency;
- Institutional arrangements to administer the agreement;
- Effective enforcement tools that are neutral, transparent, binding, expeditious, and well-timed to address concerns as they arise;
- Associated commitments regarding the use of trade remedies;
- Provisions for appropriate duration and flexibility to anticipate and adapt to a range of market situations, industry innovations, and shifting demand patterns;
- Provisions to address other issues, such as product scope, remanufacturers and joint market development.
“We are encouraged that both industries remain committed to working toward an agreement and will continue to consider ideas for achieving that objective,” the statement concluded. “Our dialogue will continue and, building on the progress achieved to date, our ministers will maintain an intensive pace of engagement with a view to achieving a mutually-acceptable agreement this fall, bearing in mind the expiration of standstill after Oct. 12, 2016.”