Canada Forks Over $450 Million to Bush

Regretably, the big news across Canada at the moment is not that the Bush-lackey Neocon Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that the USraeli Ziocon Lebanon atrocity was “measured” and “reasonable.”

The BIG NEWS is that Harper’s Conservative government will will now proceed with legislation to implement an extremely controversial “sellout” Softwood Lumber agreement with the US.

Why should this be of interest to Americans and Bush-haters everywhere?

Washington International Trade Lawyer, Elliot Feldman claims that the deal, negotiated by Bush and his Canadian lackey, “Steve” (as Bush calls him) Harper, will see $450 million funnelled straight past Congress and the US treasury, and will go instead, directly to the Bush Whitehouse.

Feldman has extensive experience in the North American Free Trade Agreement. His practice concentrates on all forms of trade remedies affecting the movement of goods and services across international borders. He advises foreign governments, American and foreign corporations on matters of trade policy and litigates international trade disputes in all relevant forums in the United States.

On August 21st, Feldman told an Ottawa meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade, that Canada was not only shafted when Harper caved to the US interests while hammering out this deal, but that the government of Canada is making a gift of $450 million to be spent by the president.

Feldman said:

“…This is in my view an historic, unprecedented, astounding intrusion into American politics. We searched all the way back to the Revolution and found nothing like it in American history. And the question that I came this morning to put is, “Will the Parliament of Canada accept responsibility for possibly tipping the balance in American politics in preserving the control of Congress by the president’s party?” This softwood lumber agreement is an historic moment in part because of that proposition, and it’s up to this Parliament to decide whether it will accept the responsibility. That responsibility cannot be shifted and, indeed, that money inevitably will go to shore up the electoral aspirations of the Republican party through the president — it’s not going to be touched by Congress — it’s going through an escrow fund. And these are questions that could impact American politics for generations and impact relations between Canada and the United States for generations to come. And that is entirely in the hands of this Parliament…”

Here’s a link to<http://thetyee.ca/Views/2006/08/29/SlushFund/> Elliot Feldman’s report

Although Canada has won virtually every legal action taken out against the U.S. under NAFTA and the WTO, the Bush government has stonewalled and disregarded every single ruling. The new Harper/Bush Softwood Lumber deal has been vociferously blasted all across Canada, and opposition parties, business analysts and even trans-national logging companies are all outraged. Although the logging-lackey Neocon Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell (a convicted criminal who was busted for drunk-driving in Maui in January 2003, ~while Premier) was the first to capitulate and endorse the deal, even amongst the logging corps there’s been a vitual consensus that this was an exceedingly stupid deal.

This from Bruce Campbell on Rabble.ca:

“…As part of the settlement, the Canadian government handed over $1 billion of the duties collected from Canadian companies – $500 million to the U.S. companies, and $450 million to the Bush Administration. This was the American price for giving Canada at least two years of lumber peace. In addition, the Americans secured tough restrictions on Canadian access to their market and got enhanced control over Canadian forest policies. The U.S. industry’s cut of this money covers their legal fees and replenishes their war chest for the next round of the lumber dispute. The Bush White House cut (to use for aid projects as it sees fit) is nothing less than a huge slush fund for the upcoming Congressional elections – an unprecedented campaign gift from the Harper government to the Republican re-election bid, paid for by the Canadian lumber industry…”

Washington will return $4-billion of the more than $5-billion in punitive duties that it has collected from logging companies over the past four years, and that money will go to the giant trans-national and American logging corporations such as Weyerhaeuser for example, which are out there, destroying Canada’s forests. Canadian taxpayers will get zilch, and so too apparently, will Americans.

Of the remaining $1 billion, $500 million will go to the U.S. logging companies who paradoxically, quite rightly charged that Canada grossly subsidizes its logging industry, and will pay the massive legal bills they accumulated. The remainder is for undisclosed “meritorious” projects in the U.S. – New Orleans? – read Halliburton, and a fund for developing the industry on both sides of the border. With Bush handing out the disbursements, we can be certain as to exactly who’s going to get the cash.

It should be of great interest and concern to all that Canada could well have become the primary financier of Republican election campaigns in the upcoming November elections

Here’s the PDF text of the New Canada/US Softwood Lumber Agreement

Here’s a chronology of events in the long-running softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the United States from Canoe.ca:

1982: The U.S. lumber industry lobby first petitioned against Canadian softwood lumber imports under U.S. countervailing duty law, alleging Canadian forest management practices unnfairly subsidize Canadian producers.

1983: After a full investigation, the U.S. Commerce Department concludes that Canadian stumpage policy does not confer countervailable subsidy.

1986: The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports again seeks countervailing duties.

Oct. 16, 1986: Commerce Department determines that Canadian stumpage systems confer a subsidy averaging 15 per cent to lumber producers.

Dec. 30, 1986: Canada and U.S. strike a five-year deal to resolve the dispute, with Canada agreeing to collect a 15 per cent charge on exports of lumber from Canada, while provincial governments implemented so-called “replacement measures” that would replace the export charge over time.

Jan. 1 1989: The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement comes into force, including new binding dispute settlement mechanisms which provide bi-national panel review of countervailing duty and anti-dumping determinations by domestic trade authorities.

May 28, 1992: U.S. Commerce Department issues final affirmative determination on subsidization, finding that forest management programs in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec and the log export controls imposed by B.C. conferred countervailable subsidies.

July 15, 1992: Commerce Department imposes final countervailing duties of 6.51 per cent on lumber imports from all provinces except the Atlantic Provinces.

August 1992: Canada appeals decisions to binational panels under the free trade deal.

July 6, 1994: After numerous reviews and appeals, the Department of Commerce revokes the countervailing duty order.

May 29, 1996: Canada and the United States finalize agreement on softwood lumber covering the five-year period to March 31, 2001, which limited duty-free shipments of lumber to the United States to 14.7 billion board feet a year. Shipments after that could be shipped but were subject to increasingly prohibitive tariff rates. Exports from Atlantic Canada were unrestricted.

April 2, 2001: The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports files countervailing and anti-dumping duty petitions with the United States government, alleging a subsidy rate of 39.9 per cent.

May 3, 2002: Canada requests WTO consultations with the United States concerning the U.S. Final Determination of Subsidy.

May 23, 2003: Canada releases counterproposal as the basis for discussions with the United States.

2003-2004: The dispute goes through various administrative reviews, NAFTA challenges and the WTO.

Aug. 10, 2005: An extraordinary challenge panel, convened under the North American Free Trade Agreement, dismisses U.S. claims that Canada’s softwood exports are subsidized. Ottawa claims victory, Washington says it will ignore the ruling.

Aug. 11, 2005: British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell, whose province is Canada’s largest lumber producer, tells new U.S. ambassador David Wilkins at a premiers meeting in Banff, Alta., that he expects the United States to accept the ruling.

Aug. 16: Federal officials say Canadian government is suspending softwood lumber talks with the United States to protest its refusal to heed the panel’s ruling, which Canada argues was the final avenue of appeal under NAFTA.

Aug. 23: At a brief media scrum, Prime Minister Paul Martin castigates the United States for its lumber protectionism and its decision to ignore the panel’s ruling.

Aug. 29: World Trade Organization rules the United States complied with international law. Washington calls WTO ruling a vindication and Ottawa calls a setback, saying NAFTA ruling takes precedent.

Dec: 12, 2005: The U.S. Commerce Department publishes the final results in the second administrative reviews of the anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders on softwood lumber from Canada for 2003 and 2004, determining a final, countrywide countervailing duty rate of 8.7 per cent and anti-dumping duty rate of 2.11 per cent.

April 26. 2006: Canada and U.S. hammer out a framework deal that would cap Canada’s share of the U.S. lumber market, impose a border tax and return 78 per cent of the $5 billion in punitive duties collected by U.S. Customs since May 2002.

Aug. 9: Trade Minister David Emerson gives Canadian lumber producers a deadline of Aug. 21 to support the negotiated deal.

Aug. 22: Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces the Conservative government will bring in legislation next month to implement the softwood deal with the U.S. after getting support from a majority of lumber companies in all regions.

INGMAR LEE is a Canadian writer currently living in Pondicherry, India. He can be reached at ingmarz@gmail.com



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