Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nothing Certain But Uncertainty

There is one thing and one thing only that is certain about the new softwood deal between the US and the branch plant office in Ottawa. It's not signed.

There is a lot of heavy lifting to be done and it's far from clear that what's been announced is what the final deal will look like. It's even far clear that what's been announced is an accurate articulation.

I refer you to this story in this morning's Vancouver Sun.

"B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has threatened to withdraw his crucial support for the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber truce after learning the U.S. government has decided to legally challenge a Canadian victory before a NAFTA trade dispute panel."

But the fact that the appeal was filed raised questions over how binding the April 27 agreement is and over the need for a deadline to sign a deal. If there was no deal by April 27, the U.S. threatened to file the appeal. And despite having the framework before the deadline, they proceeded with the appeal anyway.

Equally controversial is the clause that could pose a threat to B.C.'s new timber pricing system. It was not in the draft industry leaders approved Thursday but then popped up in the final version. If the clause -- called an anti-circumvention clause -- stands, forest companies will face higher operating costs. (emphasis mine)

Emerson is claiming that this came too late in the process to be properly debated.

Emerson said the circumvention issue surfaced too late in the negotiating process to be resolved but that he believes the Americans will not scuttle B.C.'s new system.
"There was a debate right at the very end when it was too late to resolve it, on the degree to which some of the market-based changes . . . could be explicitly included as being not in contravention of the anti-circumvention clause," he said.
"It was zero hour, and the United States trade representative did not have the information on which they could examine whether that would be an appropriate thing to do or not.
"And so in the absence of having enough time and information to actually work our way through it, they would not explicitly agree to it."

Which in essence means either that the announcement was premature or there is some wool pulling going on.

And even though the so called deal has been agreed on the US lobby filed another court case anyway, even though the acceptance of the deal stipulates the termination of all court actions.

This whole so called deal could turn out to be so much balderdash.

Could also turn out to be a pig in a poke.

Or a straightforward sell out.

But we may not know for sure until it actually takes effect, until companies or provinces tell us what the effect is. Because by the time a signing ceremony happens Harper's new Accountability Act will have been passed, and as Dave notes, we may no longer be able to find out exactly what they signed.

No comments: