Peace on the Continent? US-Canada Lumber Fight Settled?

There are conflicting reports out that the long-standing tariff disputes over Canadian imported lumber to the USA has finally been settled. For those not living near the Canadian border, the USA’s largest trading partner and a country with whom we have not been at war with since 1815, this is a big deal in Canada.

It won’t provide much relief to the wallets of U.S. home buyers, but an agreement on softwood lumber will resolve a major trade irritant that has roiled relations between the United States and Canada for more than two decades.

The deal was announced by the countries’ top trade negotiators late Thursday in Washington after the two sides ironed out some last-minute glitches.

President Bush called Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper from Air Force One to congratulate him.

“This agreement shows how NAFTA partners can overcome differences and work together,” Bush said in a statement later, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement among the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Harper, who took office in February as the Conservative Party returned to power for the first time in 12 years, had made resolving the dispute a top priority in his effort to smooth relations with the United States, which had been strained by a variety of issues, including the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Harper, to a standing ovation in the House of Commons in Ottawa, said, “It’s a good deal that resolves this long-standing dispute and allows us to move on. Today is a great day for Canada.”

Members of Congress from timber-producing states praised the deal. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said it would close the book “on a dispute that has poisoned U.S.-Canada relations for far too long.”

Of course, not everyone is happy, particularly if an opposing political party managed to pull something off in a few months that they were not able to do in decades, U.S.-Canada Lumber Deal Upsets Lawmakers (Why is the WaPo putting on that headline, when the upset lawmakers are Canadian?)

Canada’s Parliament exploded in emotional debate Thursday over a lumber deal with the United States, with vehement opposition from some producers and political leaders threatening to quash the agreement.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said agreement had been reached to end the decades-old dispute over softwood lumber, a major home-building component.

Harper told the House of Commons that the deal would return $1 billion of the $5 billion levied against Canadian lumber since 2002 to producers north of the border.

“Canada’s bargaining position was strong; our conditions were clear; and this agreement delivers,” Harper said to a standing ovation in the House. “It’s a good deal that resolves this long-standing dispute and allows us to move on. Today is a great day for Canada.”

Bill Graham, opposition leader of the Liberal Party in Parliament, quickly shot back that it was only good news for the U.S. lumber industry and that the North American Free Trade Agreement, whose mediating panels have often ruled in favor of Canada, had now lost its teeth.

He also said “It’s a disaster for Canada, for free trade and Canadian industry.” Probably bad for puppies too?

Now that is settled, maybe we can settle the century old dispute over the international border in the Dixon Entrance near Ketchikan, Alaska. What, you didn’t know we have a border dispute with Canada? The last one was settled by the German Kaiser.

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.


  1. ICallMasICM says:

    We actually were at war with Canada in 1839.

  2. Taed says:

    The Lumber game is just that. An excuse for Canada to trade. New mad cow, lumber problem settled. Oil; the future of trading between the US and Canada. Canada has the largest reserves and the US has lots of money. Newfoundland pays no federal tax on their oil; Martin and his pal. Alberta pays anyway and someone has to leave-the Premier.

    Canada is going to take as much money out of the US as fast as possible. Relations never were good. Canadians never liked the US and it has been based on taking money out of the US. Any other thinking would be an error.

    So, tourists. Same thing. Canadians promise alot of dseases like SARS and shower accidents. Why go to Canada?

    Border disputes. The island up North and Sweden, etc. Its the oil or the gold nearby, so new problems in Alaska might mean something like that.