Canada expresses willingness to finish softwood lumber deal

Canada expresses willingness to finish softwood lumber deal
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Top Canadian officials say they are eager to forge a new softwood lumber trade deal with the United States.

Chrystia Freeland, minister of international trade, and David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, sent a letter on Wednesday to President Obama and a bipartisan group of about two dozen senators countering arguments that they are reluctant to complete an agreement. 

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“We have responded on many occasions, including in writing, to the most recent U.S. proposal and area ready to respond to any serious proposal,” Freeland and MacNaughton wrote. 

“We remain determined to reach a fair and reasonable arrangement that is consistent with the principles articulated by the two leaders and will work tirelessly and very seriously to achieve this outcome,” they wrote. 

In late June, Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to complete a new agreement that would address the problem of subsidized Canadian lumber imported into the United States.

The two leaders agreed that Canadian exports should be held at or below an agreed U.S. market share that the nations would negotiate in an effort to satisfy both sides.

“While it is not our practice to negotiate in public, we do feel it is important to correct certain impressions that the U.S. Lumber Coalition may have left with you and are reflected in the content of your Oct. 21 letter addressed to President Obama on softwood lumber," the two Canadian leaders wrote.

In that letter, a group of senators led by Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.) and Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoA US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Oversight Republicans demand answers on Capital One data breach On The Money: Fed cuts rates for first time since financial crisis | Trump rips Fed after chief casts doubt on future cuts | Stocks slide | Senate kicks budget vote amid scramble for GOP support MORE (R-Idaho) expressed concern that Canada wasn’t showing a willingness to resolve the dispute.

"We are concerned, however, that since you and Prime Minister Trudeau announced this shared goal the Canadian government has been unwilling to put forth or seriously consider proposals consistent with that statement," the lawmakers wrote.

But the Canadian officials said that since June, their leaders have met twice with U.S. Lumber Coalition officials, seven times with the U.S. government, held three meetings between the U.S. government and the Canadian industry, submitted four papers, three that directly respond to the call by Obama and Trudeau to “explore approaches to ensure effective management of the agreed market share.”

“Most recently we made a formal, detailed proposal that would have precisely the effect the two leaders stated they wanted to achieve,” they wrote.

“Unfortunately, the unchanging position of the U.S. Lumber Coalition for the last five months has been to insist on an inflexible, protectionist measure that would see a reduction in Canada’s share of the U.S. lumber market of more than 30 percent,” they wrote. 

That approach, they said, would cause widespread shortages of lumber in the United States and increase prices for consumers.