Softwood Lumber and NAFTA

It’s looking increasingly like NAFTA is not going to get just “tweaked”, according to the latest meetings of new USTR appointee Robert Lighthizer, who formerly worked for Ronald Reagan.

Lighthizer told his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that softwood is “at the top of the list,” said the Globe and Mail March 14. He said he recognizes that American companies want “quantitative restraint” – a limit on Canadian lumber entering the United States. “It is a very serious, intractable sort of problem. It has enormous political consequences on both sides of the border,” he told the Senate’s Finance committee. “We have to have a new [deal].”

NAFTA Conversations Stateside

At Senate hearings held in Washington, DC, Tuesday, Senators from both parties pressed trade nominee Robert Lighthizer on softwood lumber, intellectual-property protection and, with respect to the NAFTA negotiations, for freer trade in dairy and poultry.

American law says the US trade representative must consult the Senate Finance committee — before, during, and after trade talks. They were all there.

Lighthizer appeared to say that supply management would be raised in the negotiations, said the Canadian Press Tuesday. He offered no rm guarantees or speci cs, however.

“I hadn’t realized they have that high a tariff (on poultry). I agree it’s something we should look at,” the trade nominee replied.

“When we sit down with Canada, we should raise that and a variety of other subjects which have been raised by various members of the committee in the course of this process.”

“I’ve had a variety of issues with respect to Canada that have been raised by senators. . . . Certainly (softwood) is at the top of the list,” said Lighthizer.

Lighthizer was urged to get tough with Canada on multiple fronts including lumber, dairy, and intellectual property, during a hearing in the US Congress on Tuesday, said Global News.

Lighthizer did not specify whether softwood would form part of the larger talks over the North American freetrade agreement, which Mr. Trump has vowed to renegotiate with Canada and Mexico, or if it would be handled in a separate round of bargaining.