US Gov't take on softwood lumber dispute with Canada
November 18, 2005 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find more information on the US government's take on the softwood lumber dispute with Canada.

Our key media (CBC and the Globe and Mail) are good about relaying quotes from Canadian sources, but don't really provide much other than interpretation (which I read as spin) on the US perspective. Before I get serious about this, I'd like to know what the US Gov't is saying, not what the Cdn. press says they're saying. Google doesn't offer much. Nothing of note on CNN, NYT, USA Today
posted by ykjay to Law & Government (12 answers total)
 
Good question. The US Dept of Commerce has a it's legal stuff here. Not really analysis though (I think - I haven't read it all)
posted by GuyZero at 1:30 PM on November 18, 2005


This article at about.com seems to present the US point of view well.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on November 18, 2005


Damn, I didn't even know such dispute existed. Thanks for informing me, even if that wasn't your intention.
posted by darkness at 1:44 PM on November 18, 2005


At this point in the dispute - where the U.S. has repeatedly lost rulings on the matter, and has simply refused to obey those rulings - the U.S.'s position can be summarized as "Nyah, nyah, you can't make me!" It's big news in Canada, and not in a good way. This dispute is probably one of the major reasons that Bushs' recent visit to South America for trade purposes was basically laughed at; why would you want to sign a trade agreement with someone who is busy flaunting a similar agreement?

Oddly enough, for most other commodities the U.S. behaves exactly like Canada does for timber - the U.S. owns the land, leases it extremely cheaply to mining and extraction companies, and - for whatever reason - doesn't seem to think this is a subsidy to U.S. mining companies.

The real reason behind this is some sort of complicated Republican payback to U.S. timber companies in the western U.S. Couple that with complete disregard for any value in working with other countries rather than screwing them maximally, and you understand the situation. In the Prisoner's Dilemma, the Bush administration is a player that always defects.
posted by jellicle at 2:12 PM on November 18, 2005


This might be a little obvious but I did a google news search limited to U.S. sites and got a good assortment of random results. I enjoyed this op-ed piece from the Dallas Morning News (via the Fort Wayne, Indiana News Sentinel).
posted by Staggering Jack at 5:23 PM on November 18, 2005


I'd like to know what Joe Average Americans are saying.

Do you guys even know that your cost for building houses is up by about $2K because of your government's assholery?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:10 PM on November 18, 2005


Jellicle wrote

"Oddly enough, for most other commodities the U.S. behaves exactly like Canada does for timber - the U.S. owns the land, leases it extremely cheaply to mining and extraction companies"

If you have any clearer, more specific, examples of this, I'd be grateful.

Staggering Jacks Google News links was really helpful; I didn't know about the location: filter. I hadn't realized the dispute had been in place for 25 years or so, though in retrospect, I do seem to recall something from when the FTA was being negotiated.

I'd really like to find some cites with the language in NAFTA, the relevant WTO agreements and such, particularly what Canada is quoting and what the US gov't is quoting.
posted by ykjay at 9:09 PM on November 18, 2005


I think this recent Weekly Standard article (a conservative U.S. magazine) offers what is a probably good summary of the Official U.S. Government Argument (sorry no Nafta or WTO language):
In other words, artificially-low stumpage fees are a make-work system benefiting Canadian loggers and sawmill operators. At American expense. A United States industry group, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, claims these Canadian subsidies have almost ruined the United States softwood industry.

...it's not about wood from Canada, of course. It's about Canada. Canadian conservative leader Stephen Harper knows it: he said the softwood standoff is due to the sour relationship between the Liberal party and Washington.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:53 PM on November 18, 2005


I'd like to know what Joe Average Americans are saying.

Average Americans aren't saying anything. Except for people directly involved in lumber, or who live in lumber-producing areas, a technical dispute over taxation rates for a particular type of lumber that might, maybe, add something less than 1% to the price of an average new home is a complete non-issue.

In the Canadian press, it seems to have taken on national-pride qualities. At least, I can't think of another reason why Canada and Canadians would take a position that they should be going about deforestation at an even faster pace than they are, which seems pretty out of character.

In the US, it's just another boring technical issue that hardly anybody gives a shit about. In Canada, it seems to be a burning, continuing interest because the national-pride stuff is mixed in. In the US, it has all the excitement and salience of dairy subsidies, but with extra boringness added by the legalistic character of the dispute.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 PM on November 18, 2005


ykjay, I think this is what what jellicle is referring to (activist pdf link.)

Also, I believe we subsidize our beef industry by allowing ranchers to graze their cattle on public land for a very low fee (beef experts correct me if I'm wrong.)
posted by Opposite George at 4:05 AM on November 19, 2005


For Americans: Canada has a long-standing relationship with forestry. Many young people are employed at summer jobs planting trees in the northern areas after the timber companies have been through...The forested parts of Canada are really quite huge. 1.3 BILLION acres, which is about the same size as the continental United States. You can chop down a lot of trees from a forest that size without doing much harm.

For Canadians: No, the U.S. population knows nothing about the timber situation. For land management/mining/resource issues, you can start here for the government take on the issue, and Google should give you plenty of other info.
posted by jellicle at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2005


I can't think of another reason why Canada and Canadians would take a position that they should be going about deforestation at an even faster pace than they are

Money! Forestry is the largest non-urban employer in Canada, and apparently Canada is the biggest forest products exporter in the world. In 1999, forestry were products were over half the total exports from my province, BC.

There are other industries I'd rather we be leading in, but right now the industry is crucial to the economy.
posted by Yogurt at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2005


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