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Free trade agreement is a sham

Dear Editor,
I’m railing like a lot of other Canadians against the U.S. actions on softwood lumber. But what are we going to do about it?
The federal government has declared its impotence to do anything but go back to costly trade tribunals whose previous decisions the U.S. has ignored.
International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew explained recently on a radio show that Canada has to be careful because it is in such a “strong” position when it comes to our balance of trade with the U.S. Apparently Canada has the potential to lose more than the U.S. through retaliatory measures because we export so much more to the U.S. than we import from them.
The interviewer astutely questioned whether this position was one not of “strength” but of “dependence”, preventing us from taking any meaningful action against the U.S.’s arbitrary and self-serving tariffs against Canadian lumber exports. Not that we as a country shouldn’t take a close look at the structure of our forest industry, our forestry practices, the need for stronger environmental protection and sharing benefits with Aboriginal Peoples whose homelands are those forests, but that’s our business, not the United States’.
It is galling to have the U.S. telling us that we should go to a U.S.-style auction bidding system, away from our system of-theoretically at least-managing public forest lands in the best interests of the Canadian public. The U.S. is sending a tired and limiting message to let the free market reign supreme by privatizing forest lands and letting the highest bidder take all-U.S. companies, most likely, led by the industry lobby, the so-called Coalition for Fair Lumber Exports.
As Bogdan Kipling, an editorial columnist recently wrote, we shouldn’t kid ourselves; what the U.S. wants is Canadian raw logs.
One strong measure that Canada could take against the U.S. is to invoke the six-month abrogation clauses and give notice that Canada is canceling the free trade agreements. So-called “free trade” is a sham in this climate of U.S. protectionism. It’s time for Canada to take a stand.
Peggy Smith, R.P.F., Professor
Faculty of Forestry & the Forest Environment
Lakehead University
Thunder Bay