Mr. Speaker, let me once again state the government's commitment to finding a long term policy based resolution of this ongoing trade dispute which began following the expiry of the 1996 softwood lumber agreement in March 2001.
The Government of Canada has full confidence in the strategy followed to date to defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry since the American industry began claiming that Canadian softwood lumber exports are unfair with regard to trade.
As we said earlier, after indepth consultations with the provinces and the industry, Canada adopted a two-fold strategy, based on both legal recourse and negotiations, in order to resolve this dispute.
Canada has put forward strong legal cases to defend against the punitive duties imposed on exports of softwood lumber to the United States. Since Canada initiated its legal challenges, NAFTA chapter 19 dispute settlement panels have ordered the U.S. to correct its flawed anti-dumping, countervailing duty and threat of injury determinations.
Pursuant to these panels' instructions, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued new anti-dumping and countervailing duty determinations, which resulted in reducing the country-wide anti-dumping duty rate to 8.07% from 8.43%, and the countervailing duty rate to 13.23% from 18.79%.
However the government and other Canadian parties involved in these cases continue to believe that proper Department of Commerce determinations will find that Canadian softwood lumber exports are neither dumped nor subsidized. Consequently, Canadian parties have requested that a NAFTA panel review the Department of Commerce's remand countervailing duty determination.
On March 5, a NAFTA panel found that the U.S. Department of Commerce anti-dumping determination had no legal grounds in the U.S. and gave the latter new instructions to bring its determination in line with American law.
Furthermore, on December 15, in accordance with the NAFTA panel's instructions, the U.S. International Trade Commission issued a remand determination, which reaffirmed its original finding that imports of Canadian softwood lumber threaten to injure the U.S. domestic industry.
This latest unsubstantiated determination has also been challenged by Canada, and the NAFTA panel is expected to issue its second report on April 30. There is a possibility that the panel will remand certain issues of the latest threat of injury determination back to the U.S. International Trade Commission with instructions to issue a new determination that is consistent with U.S. law.
If the U.S. International Trade Commission cannot sustain its threat of injury determination, then there will be no basis for the imposition of duties against Canadian softwood lumber exports. However, it is important to note that litigation in this case could last another year.
The World Trade Organization's appeals branch overruled the panel's conclusions on the determination of benefit in its report on the dispute over countervailing duties.
The appeals branch stated that it was possible to impose duties in very limited cases but that there was insufficient evidence to determine if the United States had grounds to do so in this case.
It is worth noting, however, that, in August 2003, a NAFTA panel found that the United States had no legal grounds for imposing duties to prove the existence of a benefit.
Furthermore, a WTO panel also submitted a confidential report on dumping in January. This report should be made public on April 13.
We are particularly pleased with the recent report on threat of injury which strongly supports Canada's position that our exports of softwood lumber do not threaten to injure the U.S. domestic industry. The WTO panel ruled in favour of Canada on the crucial issue that the ITC finding that imports of Canadian softwood lumber would increase substantially, thereby threatening to injure the U.S. industry is not one “that could be reached by an objective and unbiased investigating authority”. This was the key ITC finding supporting its “threat” determination.
However, while litigation in these cases is going well, it is important to remember it will be some time before we see final results. This round of NAFTA cases could continue into 2005 and the WTO cases could take until 2006 to implement. Challenges of the administrative review results could carry on well beyond that.
We have always stated that challenging U.S. actions before NAFTA and WTO panels is a long process. We fully expect the United States to continue to defend its countervailing duty, anti-dumping and threat of injury determinations. In recognition of this fact, Canada spared no efforts in its negotiations with the United States in an attempt to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of this dispute.
Important progress has been made in laying the foundation for a lasting resolution to the dispute. The long-term political solution discussed with the United States over the past few years includes the publication of a policy bulletin by the U.S. Department of Commerce, to which the latter would refer in reviewing changes introduced by the provinces to their future forest management practices, which is what the U.S. countervailing duties are aimed at.
Such a review, if it were positive, would lead to the revocation of the countervailing duties for the province in question. The provinces are already making these changes, particularly British Columbia, which is well ahead of the others.
Also under discussion is a settlement that would replace the duties with a quota system, settle the litigation and allow provinces to pursue policy reform and achieve an exit from the quota. On December 6 the U.S. put forward terms for a settlement, which would provide a 31.5% market share to Canadian exporters of softwood lumber.
After extensive consultation with Canadian stakeholders, on January 12 we indicated to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans that provinces could not support the proposed terms for agreement, primarily because of the lack of a clear exit from the quota for provinces that successfully reform forest policy. Other concerns include the market share Canada would have under the agreement and the split of the deposits.
Since his meeting with Secretary Evans, the Minister of International Trade has travelled across the country to meet with industry associations in all major softwood exporting provinces and with various provincial governments to discuss the components of a counter proposal. On March 24 he spoke with provincial ministers. There is strong support for a negotiated solution, but there is also a preference for waiting until after the April 30, 2004 NAFTA panel report on threat of injury. In the meantime, Canada continues to pursue its legal challenges before the NAFTA and the WTO.
The Government of Canada, which is very aware of the repercussions of American duties on the Canadian industry, has already allocated $365 million to help workers, communities and associations affected by the softwood lumber dispute.
This money will be used for various purposes, such as helping affected communities diversify their economy; helping workers through training and work sharing programs; investing in research in order to make the forestry sector more competitive in the long term; funding research and development on softwood lumber; and taking measures to expand the markets.
The federal government's assistance includes: $71 million for measures to assist displaced workers; $110 million for a national softwood industry and community adjustment fund to support community economic development; $95 million in funding for softwood lumber research and development, market expansion initiatives and advocacy efforts; $20 million in advocacy efforts to inform the U.S. public of the impact of the U.S. duties on U.S. lumber consumers; and $14.85 million in assistance to Canadian lumber industry associations. The funding assists industry associations to operate effectively under the burden imposed by a softwood lumber dispute.
The government has continued to assist and take the right approach throughout this dispute. In our consultations with various stakeholders, we have explored all the feasible avenues and analyzed all the options available to us in the context of this dispute.