The provincial government is moving ahead with a new plan to “enhance the competitiveness” of B.C.’s forest industry at a time when Canada and the U.S. are still at loggerheads over reaching a new softwood lumber deal and the threat of U.S.-imposed trade action hangs over the industry. The province announced a $150-million strategy Aug. 31 to increase the promotion and management of B.C. lumber.
Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, said the province is closely watching the ongoing negotiations with the U.S. to renew the 2006 softwood lumber deal that expired nearly a year ago. “This agreement is critical for us,” Thomson said. “We are still significantly apart in terms of what we feel needs to be in the agreement as compared to the current U.S. position in it. It needs to be an agreement that works for British Columbia, works for Canada.”
The former softwood lumber agreement was first brokered by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2006, and was subsequently renewed in later years by his Conservative government.
Since the deal expired last October, free trade has been back, meaning there are no tariffs, no thresholds and no restrictions on trade of the widely-used forest products between the two countries.
There has also been a one-year stand-still period — which ends Oct. 12 — during which the U.S. is not allowed to launch trade actions. The strategy announced by the B.C. government Aug. 31 is not contingent on a deal being signed before the Oct. 12 deadline.