By: Winnipeg Free Press
Canadian softwood lumber negotiators held a one-day meeting with their U.S. counterparts in Ottawa this week but there was no report of progress on the contentious trade issue.
Alex Lawrence, a spokesman for International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, described the meeting, held Thursday, as “an informative exchange.”
Officials said they expect talks to resume shortly, but no date has yet been set.
The two sides are under pressure to reach a deal before October, a one-year period since the previous agreement expired in which neither side can take punitive actions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama vowed in March to begin 100 days of talks aimed at reaching a new agreement. They are expected to provide an update when Obama visits Ottawa on June 29 for the so-called “Three Amigos” summit that includes Mexico’s president.
However, CIBC forestry analyst Hamir Patel says time is running out to a deal, noting that the Americans believe a framework has to be found by around June 18 for an agreement to be in place by October, while Canada views June as “more of a checking in” date.
“At some point (maybe late June/July), we believe serious negotiations will simply cease due to the upcoming U.S. elections (in November),” he wrote in a report.
Patel said talks likely wouldn’t resume until next March of April, after Obama’s successor takes office and a new U.S. trade representative is confirmed by Congress.
He expects the U.S. industry will push for a trade case to be filed in five months, opening Canadian producers to preliminary duties ranging between 25 and 30 per cent.
The U.S. Lumber Coalition is pushing for the reinstatement of across-the-board quotas, something that has been rejected by Western Canadian producers.