(Adds U.S. trade official comment)
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Sept 14 Canada has not yet managed to
settle a long-running dispute with the United States over
softwood lumber exports and is ready to resort to litigation if
necessary, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday.
Freeland, speaking to reporters after talks with U.S. Trade
Representative Michael Froman and industry representatives in
Washington, said increasingly protectionist trade sentiment in
the United States was making the talks more complex.
"This is a notoriously, historically tough and complicated
issue to resolve. There are still some fundamental areas of
differing points of view between Canada and the United States,"
U.S. producers complain that Canadian lumber is subsidized,
and have in the past launched trade challenges that resulted in
the United States imposing billions of dollars in tariffs.
The most recent round of arguments ended with a 2006 deal
that expired in October 2015. Both sides agreed to take no
action for a year after that, but without a new treaty, U.S.
firms have made clear they will file new damage claims.
"If we don't reach a deal by (next month), negotiations very
much can continue ... we are looking for a good deal but we are
not looking for any deal," said Freeland, stressing that both
sides were talking in good faith.
"We would prefer peace but if we have to fight, we'll fight,
and we are absolutely preparing to litigate if that's the
direction in which this issue goes. Canada has a very good
record of winning cases at all levels on this issue," she added.
In response, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said
in an emailed statement that U.S. and Canadian negotiators were
still working "intensively" to reach a deal that meets criteria
laid out by U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau in a June statement.
"The leaders agreed that a new agreement would be designed
to maintain Canadian imports at or below an agreed U.S. market
share," Froman said. "While these are difficult negotiations and
significant gaps remain, the United States is committed to
continued engagement with Canada to see if a new agreement can
Canada has in the past won softwood lumber cases at the
World Trade Organization only to see them challenged by the
Froman will soon visit Canada for talks with the domestic
lumber industry, Freeland added.
Major Canadian lumber companies include Canfor Corp
, West Fraser Timber Co, Interfor Corp
and Resolute Forest Products Inc.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu
Nomiyama, Bernard Orr)