Since its implementation in October 2006, the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) has worked well, providing certainty for industry and returning approximately CDN$ 5 billion in duties to Canadian softwood lumber producers. As differences are bound to occur in the implementation of complex international agreements such as the SLA, an international arbitration process was built into the Agreement to resolve these differences.
In the spring of 2007, Canada and the United States held consultations on provincial measures administered by the governments of Ontario and Quebec. Canada maintains that these measures are in full compliance with the SLA.
On January 18, 2008, the U.S. government filed an arbitration request with the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), an internationally respected forum under which all SLA arbitrations will take place. On February 18, 2008, Canada filed a Response to the Request for Arbitration. On December 23, 2008 the U.S. government filed its Statement of Case and on February 27, 2009 Canada filed its Statement of Defence. The United States filed its Reply Memorial on April 3, 2009 and Canada filed its Rejoinder, the last major written submission before the hearing, on May 15, 2009. The final hearing in this arbitration is scheduled for July 20-24, 2009 in Ottawa.
This is the second request for arbitration under the SLA. An August 13, 2007 request for arbitration by the United States covered Canada's interpretation of a technical provision of the SLA – the “adjustment factor”. The measures at issue in both requests were the subject of consultations between Canada and the United States on April 19, 2007.
The arbitration process is initiated when either Canada or the United States files an official request for arbitration with the LCIA.
The SLA also requires that hearings be held in Canada or in the United States, and be open to the public. The venue is chosen by the tribunal.
The SLA calls for the tribunal to endeavour to issue a decision within six months of formation of the tribunal.
The SLA provides that decisions of a tribunal are binding on Canada and the United States.
On February 18, 2008, Canada nominated Albert Jan van den Berg as arbitrator. Mr. van den Berg, a Dutch lawyer practicing in Brussels, specializes in international arbitration. He is also a professor at law and has extensive experience as an arbitrator on various matters. For its part, the United States nominated David A. R. Williams.
The two arbitrators named Dr. Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler as tribunal chairperson. Dr. Kaufmann-Kohler is an accomplished Swiss law professor at the University of Geneva who has extensive experience in international arbitration.