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Trade deal welcomed, but issues still remain

Premier John Horgan talks with media in Prince George Tuesday morning. Bill Phillips photo
Premier John Horgan

B.C. is welcoming the new trade deal between Canada, Mexico and the United States, but is concerned about the impacts on the province’s dairy industry.

“The USMCA is good for Canada as it provides important stability for business and our economy,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement issued Monday. “Our supply chains remain intact and we are pleased the independent dispute-resolution system will be preserved, as it has shown to be an essential mechanism for challenging U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood and other exports. At the same time, we are concerned about the possible impacts on the nearly 8,000 people working in British Columbia’s dairy industry.”

The deal, which preserving Canada’s supply management system for dairy producers, will allow greater access to the Canadian market by American producers.

“B.C. worked closely with the federal government and agreed to amend the measures relating to wine in grocery stores,” he said. “This policy has been controversial for some time. We knew this was a problem that we were going to have to fix. We will continue to work with the Canadian government to resolve it in a manner that best protects our wine industry.”

The American wine industry took exception to the province allowing B.C. wine to be sold in grocery stores.

The agreement did not result in the elimination of tariffs placed on steel and aluminum products, which were imposed by the Trump administration.

“While the tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum remain, we continue to urge the federal government to resolve this issue, now that USMCA is in place,” he said.

The the forest industry, the agreement is a bit of a victory. While it did not result in the removal of U.S. tariffs on softwood lumber, it does preserve the old dispute resolution system, sending disputes to an independent panel for resolution. The U.S. had wanted any disputes to be resolved in American courts.

Susan Yurkovich
Susan Yurkovich

“Chapter 10 of the new agreement maintains, for Canada and the U.S only, a binational panel review mechanism for reviewing anti-dumping and countervailing duty determinations by either country,” said Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council. . “Having a robust and fair dispute resolution mechanism is absolutely critical to maintaining a rules-based trading system and providing an avenue for Canada and Canadian companies to appeal unwarranted duties.”

While achieving a renewed trade agreement is a major step forward, the ongoing softwood lumber remains unresolved.

“The duties imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Canadian softwood lumber are punitive and unfair, and are driven by the U.S. lumber lobby solely for the purpose of constraining imports of high-quality Canadian lumber to drive up prices for their own benefit. Ultimately these duties punish consumers and workers on both sides of the border,” said Yurkovich. “Finding a durable resolution to the softwood lumber dispute must remain a key priority.”

B.C. is the largest Canadian exporter of softwood lumber to the U.S., making up about half of Canada’s total lumber exports.

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