From today's Globe, the editorial on page A20:
... it is welcome news that Ottawa and Washington have finally sketched out a framework agreement that could end this lingering dispute. Given the power of the U.S. softwood lobby, a negotiated deal, brokered between top players, was the only way to break the logjam ...
In the end, hard-headed diplomacy has yielded a satisfactory step toward resolving this nasty battle. Much remains to be discussed, but things are going in the right direction.
And just to the right, on page A21:
Ottawa's softwood capitulation
Details of a draft softwood lumber framework agreement suggest Ottawa is about to surrender unconditionally in the wood war, and drive the last nail in the coffin of NAFTA's Chapter 19 dispute-settlement process...
If such a deal is considered a victory, I'd hate to see what a loss looks like. After spending literally hundreds of millions on its legal case, Canada looks set to throw it all away, without accomplishing either of the fundamental goals.
But worse than that, this kind of deal could destroy NAFTA's Chapter 19 dispute-settlement mechanism. Considered the linchpin (for Canada) of the original Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement almost 20 years ago, Chapter 19 was designed to handle these trade disputes and get them away from the U.S. domestic political issues that have plagued trade relations for decades. The ultimate irony here: It was previous lumber wars that drove Canada to make dispute settlement a deal-breaker in the original trade negotiations.
Having lost virtually all the lumber cases through Chapter 19 -- not just in this case, but in previous cases as well -- the U.S. has been on a determined 20-year campaign to undermine the process. The culmination of that effort came last summer when the U.S. ignored what should have been the end of the softwood lumber case -- a final decision in Canada's favour on the threat-of-injury issue.
This latest softwood lumber deal would be a complete vindication of the U.S. strategy. No Canadian exporter would ever again feel inclined to take the U.S. through NAFTA seeking redress, knowing full well the U.S. would ignore a result it didn't like, and that Canada would do nothing about it.
There is some hope. Canadian lumber producers have already signalled their opposition to this arrangement and, regardless of what is in the framework agreement, they have the legal right to continue litigation and insist on a 100-per-cent refund of the $5-billion. That money belongs to them, not the federal or provincial governments.
Provincial governments, too, might have serious reservations. Ontario Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay has already said in the Legislature that the draft he's seen doesn't meet Ontario producers' needs and his government won't sign off on it. Industry sources say British Columbia doesn't like a surge mechanism designed to keep volumes from that province in check.
Obviously, there is major opposition to the fundamentals in this latest agreement. Despite that, federal government lemmings are running full tilt toward the cliff. If this draft deal is what International Trade Minister David Emerson crossed the floor to accomplish, the country would have been better served if he'd stayed a Liberal.
I'm so confused.