Gordon Campbell, premier of British Columbia Premier, Canada's biggest lumber producing province, expresses his government's support for an agreement between the U.S. and Canada to end a dispute over Canadian shipments of softwood lumber to the U.S.
Campbell spoke at a press conference in Vancouver.
``Since April 27, the government of Canada and the government of the United States have been working to finalize the softwood lumber agreement that would bring some stability and certainty to the multi-billion dollar softwood trade between Canada and the U.S.,'' the Premier said.
``As a province, we have always been in favor of free and unfettered trade of softwood to the United States. This is reflected in a series of government reforms that have taken place over the last few years, culminating in a new market-pricing system, which has been implemented in British Columbia.
``We do not subsidize our manufacturers in any way. Everyone knows there is a continental price for lumber. The problem here is with a strong political group in the United States, which has carried out punitive, protectionist measures against Canada and B.C.'s lumber industry since 1982. Our government and our industry have resisted these attacks from the U.S. lumber lobby and will continue to do so.
``Since the term sheet was agreed to on April 27, we have been working with our industry, the federal government and the provinces to address outstanding concerns that we felt were necessary to finalize the softwood lumber agreement.
``It is not a perfect agreement. No agreement ever is or ever will be. When we accepted the term sheet, I immediately informed the Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) that our market pricing system and anti-circumvention language that was acceptable to B.C. were imperative for our support.
``Industry and government worked hand in glove to provide comments and to clarify language and terms for a final agreement. The federal government has negotiated very good language on the market-pricing system and anti-circumvention.
``At the end of June, after reviewing the initial draft, we said four things needed to be done. We needed to modify termination for a 12-month standstill on any U.S. termination and a 12-month standstill on any expiry of the agreement. We asked for exemption of lumber produced from private-land logs from the coast in British Columbia, for changed running rules'' governing day-to-day operations of the agreement.
``We did, however, have clear priorities. We pushed hard and got a 12-month standstill on U.S. termination, and we continued to work with (Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the U.S. and Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson) to secure a 12-month standstill on expiry of the agreement. I have had a number of conversations with the Prime Minister, and I am pleased to say that we have now heard from the United States that a 12-month standstill on expiry is acceptable.
``And further, after members of our industry advocated for a six-month notice provision on the termination by the U.S., the federal government has secured that agreement.
``Now we have secured our market-pricing system, circumvention language, 12-months standstill on expiry, six-month notice of termination, 12-month standstill on U.S. termination and the further commitment from the U.S. to review lumber from private-land logging and running rules.
``I know that everyone didn't get everything they wanted from this agreement. But realistically, this is a negotiation that has resulted in some significant improvements in the initial terms that were outlined in April.
``The federal government, the prime minister, the minister of trade and the ambassador have worked hard on behalf of our industry and our province.
``Looking at this in the context of our key objectives, we said we needed our market-pricing system and acceptable anti- circumvention language. The federal government got it. We said in July we needed a standstill in case the U.S. terminates. We got it. This allows for a year before any round of litigation or U.S. trade action.
``We were emphatic that upon any expiry of the agreement in seven or nine years, we needed a standstill agreement. Again, to allow 12 months of free trade prior to any legal action launched by the Americans. We got that too. Just yesterday we got a commitment to a six-month notice of U.S. termination that some in the industry said was very important.
``The agreement creates more stability and more certainty and the protection of our management system. The early return of the deposits bodes well for British Columbia.
``Each (forest products) company will now need to make a decision. We believe this agreement is in British Columbia's and the industry's best interest. And I urge their support,'' he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Donville in Vancouver at firstname.lastname@example.org