Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Softwood Lumber - and US Trade

Apparently, reality is starting to trickle its way into some of the calcified echelons of some US politicians.

A couple of weeks ago, Paul Martin delivered a hard-edged speech to an industry leader audience in New York. In it, he lambasted the current US government for ignoring trade ruling after trade ruling in the softwood lumber dispute.

Former president Clinton spoke in favour of Paul Martin's hard line approach to the US on the softwood lumber dispute yesterday. I don't suppose this is overly suprising - I'd be very shocked if Clinton had stood up and said he agreed with what the Republicans are doing. The other thing that came to light were statements by Senator Hatch about Canada, and in particular, Alberta's oil production. Considering the fact that Hatch is normally a pretty hard-line Republican, the observation is both chilling and encouraging.

If Canada is becoming the "800lb Gorilla" of oil trade that Hatch suggests, then it's about time that the US start treating that 800lb Gorilla with a bit of respect. While critics like Paul Jackson cringe and moan about how Canada is about to upset it's biggest trading partner, Paul Martin is actually doing something useful - it may mean breaking a few rules to do it, but putting the US on notice that non-cooperation on softwood lumber might just mean non-cooperation on other issues of trade that are much more important to them.

In the meantime, Canada's industry sectors would do well to begin growing their visibility and market presence outside of the US.

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