VICTORIA, B.C. — Canada and the U.S. are on the brink of resolving the long-running softwood lumber dispute, according to reports.
A deal was reportedly hammered out over the weekend, which could return Canada’s softwood industry to profitability immediately. If endorsed, the agreement would be retroactive until Dec. 6.
“Discussions have progressed this week but we’re not at a point where we have an agreement,” said Sebastien Theberge, a spokesman for International Trade Minister, Pierre Pettigrew. “The discussions and consultations will continue over the next few days.”
The potential five-year agreement removes the punishing duties on Canadian lumber, however it also caps Canada’s exports to the U.S. at 31.5 per cent of the U.S. market. Canada’s current share is 34 per cent. Stiff penalties will be applied to shipments surpassing that cap.
Also, 52 per cent of the $1.6 billion in duties already collected from Canadian companies will be returned under the agreement. U.S. companies that support the trade deal will receive $770 million of the duties collected.
But not everyone is jumping for joy just yet, including B.C. Forests Minister, Mike de Jong.
“There is a lot of skepticism and it is legitimate to be skeptical. I share a lot of that skepticism. There is risk here and that’s what we have to measure. That’s what we have to factor into whether we decide to proceed,” said de Jong.
He said quotas will need to be allocated to forestry companies in order to meet the cap fairly.
“The companies that are brutally honest with me when we have these discussions say, ‘Yeah, this is a hell of a deal if I get all the quota I want.’ The reality is: Nobody is going to get all the quota they want. Everybody is going to get less quota than they feel they deserve or they require,” de Jong told local media.
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