Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says there is still time for a renewed Softwood Lumber Agreement with the United States before President-Elect Donald Trump is sworn in as its 45th president in January.
Softwood lumber is “hugely important” to Canada and to British Columbia in particular, she adds.
After the former 10-year agreement expired in October, the local MP is concerned about the new Liberal government’s failure to get a new deal done yet.
However, McLeod says there is “still some time” for current United States President Barack Obama to complete a deal with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before the changeover in presidential leadership.
“I’m appealing to them to get it done. They had indicated they had already met a number of months ago and they had certainly created a commitment in terms of a framework.
“They gave it 100 days and we are well over 100 days, so it’s on their ‘to-do’ list.”
The former softwood agreement has given “relative peace” for the past decade to the lumber industry in B.C. and all across Canada, she adds.
Noting she’s rather have “no deal than a bad deal,” McLeod says without any agreement there will be yet more “very onerous and time-consuming” court battles through the dispute process.
“The imposition of significant tariffs last time created big issues.”
However, Canada is always on the “right side” of these disputes as its lumber industry was absolved of the U.S. claims of unfair tariffs north of the border that “did not ultimately turn out to be accurate”, she notes.
Trade agreements, in general, are a point of concern for McLeod with the recent election of Trump.
“I think like many Canadians, I was surprised [by Trump winning the election], but I guess you never truly understand what’s happening in other countries unless … you are living there.”
She notes that during his election campaign, Trump’s statement about abolishing the North American Free Trade Agreement and renegotiating a deal could certainly create challenges in Canada’s international trade with the U.S.
“Free trade has been a benefit to everyone. ”We had worked very hard as a [former Conservative] government to start to allow much more freedom of movement between our two countries.”
This resulted in “a lot less bureaucracy and red tape” for the many trade goods that have an integrated supply chain between Canada and the U.S., such as automobile manufacturing, she explains.
“Our current government needs to be very articulate about the importance of free trade and the importance of borders that move products and services in a good way.”
However, McLeod says Trump’s promise to move forward with the Keystone Pipeline is a positive step for Canada.
“Certainly, we supported it. The Liberal’s indicated they supported Keystone, and President-Elect Trump [during his campaign] has indicated support for it, so perhaps it is something that can get resurrected back on the table.
“Again, we’d look to the Prime Minister [Trudeau] to make that case as early as feasible.”