Emerson wants softwood deal passed
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:45 p.m. May 15, 2006]
OTTAWA — Trade
Minister David Emerson said Monday he wants legislation required to
settle the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S. passed in the
Commons before the summer recess.
"We've got to get going though," Emerson told the
Commons trade committee.
"It will require Parliament to execute this agreement. We're
going to have to have a framework that will allow and enable
provinces to put in place an export tax that could come into play.
"I don't want to wait until fall for that."
Emerson said he will press ahead to get the final details of the
"If we do not put people's feet to the fire, if we don't push
them very hard, we could be talking like this next year at this
time. I just know this is an issue that you can spend your whole
"This work is now under way and we will consult regularly with
the provinces and with industry."
Emerson said drafting the legal text and finalizing the agreement
should be in place in the coming weeks.
He said this would include designing the mechanics of key features
of the agreement, including border measures and the surge
A legislative component -- likely a ways and means motion -- of the
deal could be tricky for the government and the opposition
All three opposition parties have come out swinging against the deal
saying the Harper government gave up to much to the U.S.
The opposition parties would have enough votes to defeat any
enabling legislation if they wanted to and risk being accused of
scuttling the deal by the government.
NDP MP Peter Julian tried to clear the air about reports that people
in the forestry industry have been threatened by the government and
told they should support the softwood deal or receive no government
support for litigation in the future.
"Can you tell the committee today that assurances have been
given to the forestry sector that if this deal is rejected by the
forestry sector, they will continue to be support by the government
of Canada for litigation?" he asked.
"What we have told the industry is to examine carefully the
choices here," said Emerson.
Emerson said any aid package or support for the softwood lumber
industry in a continued dispute would "almost certainly"
be viewed as a subsidy by the U.S.
"Everybody just has to understand what the options are,"
"Litigation, possibly government support, but a long, extended
period of uncertainty with new measures that can be targeted in
terms of countervailing duty."
Emerson was also grilled by MPs about comments he made to the
Vancouver Sun over the weekend about a clause contained in the
agreement with the U.S.
The anti-circumvention clause would require provinces to consult
with the U.S. before changing their forestry policies.
"We are going to be working much closer cross-border than we were in the past, and there will be more consultation I am sure on issues relating to timber pricing and that kind of
thing," Emerson said. "But you've got to accept that."
Emerson told the committee Monday that the consultations with the
U.S. on forestry policy is not new and has been done in the past to
avoid the U.S. introducing tariffs or other measures.
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