VICTORIA, B.C. — Layoffs in B.C.’s coastal forest industry have already begun, and politicians fear an all-out trade war could result from the U.S.-imposed 19.3 per cent tariff on Canadian softwood.
B.C. Forests Minister, Mike de Jong, was part of a conference call Tuesday with other provincial forestry ministers and federal Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, in which the politicians discussed this country’s next course of action.
Pettigrew will be calling on Prime Minister Jean Chretien to appeal to U.S. President George Bush as soon as possible to reconsider the heavy tariffs.
“The prime minister will engage Mr. Bush sooner rather than later, and it can’t be soon enough,” de Jong told local media.
The politicians also discussed launching an ad campaign south of the border to inform U.S consumers that they, too, will be impacted by the tariff.
“This tariff only satisfies the interest of a select few in the U.S timber lobby … the American public needs to know this — they need to know the cost of building a house in their country has just gone up tremendously,” says de Jong. “The possibility of this escalating into a full-scale trade war is there. Our long-standing good relations are at risk.”
Since the announcement on Friday, more than 600 Doman Industries employees have been laid off, and up to 1,000 loggers are expected to receive their pink slips by September. Other logging companies are also laying off workers, and the trickle down effect will be felt by log haulers, as well.
B.C. Premier, Gordon Campbell remains confident the duty will be overturned by NAFTA, as similar duties have been in the past.
“They’ve gone to bat three times and they have struck out every time they have tried to say there is a subsidy for Canadian goods,” Campbell told local media.
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