Canada says U.S. still committed to softwood deal

Wed Mar 5, 2008 3:03pm EST
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Bush administration has assured Canada it will not walk away from a 2006 lumber agreement, even as it accuses Ottawa of not living up to its obligations, Trade Minister David Emerson said on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab raised the issue of the "viability" of the agreement on Tuesday, after an international arbitration panel ruled partly in Canada's favor, the latest twist in a long-running feud over exports of Canadian softwood lumber to the United States.

But Emerson said he had received assurances that the deal was safe.

"I've talked to the U.S. trade representative. We've both committed in writing and verbally with each other that we're committed to seeing this agreement through," Emerson told reporters.

"It's an important stabilizer in terms of our relationship and I expect to see her to continue to move in that direction."

Schwab's spokeswoman, Gretchen Hamel, said on Tuesday that Washington disagreed with a key finding in the court ruling, which addressed a U.S. complaint that Canadian provinces owed millions of dollars in export taxes aimed at limiting softwood volumes shipped to the United States.

The court said British Columbia and Alberta -- which account for over half the softwood shipments -- did not owe anything, though some other provinces did.

Hamel said the finding was not consistent with the "balance" that the two countries had negotiated. "The viability of the softwood lumber agreement is dependent on maintaining that balance," she said.   Continued...