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MP sounds warning over softwood talks

Thousands of jobs in B.C. at stake if October date missed, McLeod says
August 19, 2016 9:34 A.M.

The Trudeau government is leaving the forestry sector vulnerable to another punitive trade dispute with its inability to secure a new softwood lumber agreement, MP Cathy McLeod said Friday.

B.C.'s forestry sector is particularly at risk. More than 15,000 jobs were lost in the province in the last softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., which extracted $5.4 billion in duties from the industry across Canada.

The Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP said she’s disappointed that Liberal MPs voted down a Conservative motion Thursday intended to make progress with a national agenda on negotiations she believes are going nowhere.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has met with President Obama three times since coming to office, but his government continues to miss their own deadlines for a new softwood lumber agreement, and I have no confidence that they will be able to deliver one in time,” McLeod said in a news release.

Liberal MP Linda Lapointe even went as far as calling Thursday’s committee meeting a waste of time and money, she added.

Lapointe, a member of the international trade committee, said the Opposition is simply playing politics and that negotiations are progressing. Incensed, a Conservative MP on the committee countered that the Liberals don’t think 370,000 jobs are worth an hour-long meeting.

“With 370,000 jobs that rely on Canada’s forestry sector, if Canadian softwood lumber producers lose access to the U.S. market, there will be more massive job losses that we simply can’t afford,” McLeod said.

She said it’s worrisome to hear from Canada’s chief negotiator, Martin Moen, that the two trading partners aren’t close to reaching a deal.

“We need to be prepared for the possibility that Canada will be forced back into a trade remedy investigation.”

The last Canada-U.S. softwood pact expired in October 2015, leaving a one-year grace period before the U.S. can take trade action. Moen told the committee Thursday that it will be challenging to achieve an agreement by mid-October. However, he noted that industry stakeholders prefer no deal to a bad deal and that Canada should prepare for the possibility the deadline won’t be met.

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