Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada, U.S. Far Apart on Several Key Softwood Issues: Feds' Chief Negotiator

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada, U.S. Far Apart on Several Key Softwood Issues: Feds' Chief Negotiator

Article excerpt

Canada, U.S. far apart on softwood: feds

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OTTAWA - With a fall deadline approaching, Canada's chief negotiator in the softwood-lumber talks with the United States says the two sides remain far apart on several key issues.

Martin Moen told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that negotiations for a new softwood deal have continued at an intensive pace with engagement reaching the highest levels between the countries.

But despite the efforts, Moen acknowledged that reaching a deal by the fall deadline will be a challenge.

Industry, he added, should prepare for the possibility that there will be no agreement and the risk Canada will be forced into litigation.

Failure to reach a deal by Oct. 15 -- the one-year anniversary of the expiry of the old, nine-year pact -- would allow U.S. producers to petition Washington to impose new duties.

Moen said without an agreement in place, Canadian officials are unsure whatU.S. industry would actually do -- and when.

"Although discussions have been constructive and have led to a better understanding of each party's positions and concerns, Canada and the U.S. -- I have to be honest -- we do remain far apart on several key issues," Moen said told a special meeting of the all-party, international trade committee.

"There are considerable gaps that will need to be bridged in order for a new agreement to be concluded. Negotiations are continuing with the goal of reaching an agreement by the end of the standstill period."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken with U.S. President Barack Obama about the need to strike a new softwood lumber deal. The leaders have expressed optimism that a compromise could stave off fresh battles in the long-running softwood-lumber war.

Officials from Canada and the U.S. have met 12 times face-to-face and have held numerous teleconferences to discuss the issue, Moen said. The next meeting, he added, is scheduled for next week.

He also mentioned a few of the sticking points around the bargaining table.

They include, he said, determining an appropriate structure, for example, on how to use some combination of export charges and export quotas. This structure, he added, should be designed to maintain Canadian exports at or below an agreed U. …

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