Photo courtesy Aapo Haapanen
Photo courtesy Aapo Haapanen

With Justin Trudeau's ascension as Canada's new prime minister, he and the Obama administration face a quickly shortening time horizon to work out a new Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA), Canadian politicians say.

British Columbia premier Christy Clark said Oct. 21 that Trudeau must jump-start SLA renegotiations. According to Huffington Post Canada:

"It is absolutely urgent," Clark said. "My approach? What do we all do when you make a phone call and you can't get through the first time? You keep calling."

Speaking just before the Oct. 20 vote, Pat Bell, former Minister of Forests for British Columbia, spoke with 250 News  about the lack of exposure that the issue has been receiving s. He also spoke on the role that the new prime minister must play in resolving the issue while the Canadians currently have a position of power :

"So once the federal election is resolved, whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, if it goes to the top of their agenda, I think they have three to five months to negotiate a new deal in a position of strength. You might be lucky to get Obama’s attention during that  time. So I think there is a possibility we could get a deal as soon  as the federal election is over if it becomes a top priority issue for the  Prime Minister."

The 2006 version of the SLA expired earlier this month. As previously reported, there is currently a standstill provision from the agreement that prevents any form of litigation. But that has not stopped either side from planning for the legal battle that could possibly ensue. Charlie Thomas, chairman of the U.S. National Lumber Coalition has asserted that the Canadians are seeking to avoid negotiations. If that continues, he warned,  "the U.S. industry will eventually have no choice but to use our rights under U.S. trade laws to offset the unfair advantages provided to Canadian industry"

Negotiations over a new SLA may also affect members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) according to Business Vancouver. The United States and Canada are both members of this proposed trade agreement which includes 10 other countries including Japan. 

Japan, like other countries, wants more raw logs from British Columbia. However, British Columbia restricts the number of logs that it exports in order to meet the needs of domestic sawmills. Japan did not succeed in getting B.C. log export restrictions relaxed during the TPP negotiations, but the issue could resurface if and when Canada and the United States sit down to renegotiate the SLA..