Address by Minister Fast to Media at Embassy of Canada to the United States

January 23, 2012 - Washington, D.C.

Check Against Delivery

Today I joined U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to sign a two-year extension to the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement.

The agreement, originally signed in 2006, brought to a close a long-standing dispute between our countries—a dispute that took a devastating toll on lumber communities across Canada, including in my home province of British Columbia.

Anyone who remembers those days can tell you stories of families struggling to make ends meet.

Within weeks of taking office, our government took action.

We negotiated an agreement with the United States that brought great benefits to Canada.

The Softwood Lumber Agreement returned over $5 billion to Canadian exporters at a time when they needed it most.

The months and years before the agreement were marked by long and costly legal disputes between Canadian companies and the U.S. government—over 25 separate cases that took a devastating financial toll on Canada’s lumber industry.

The agreement put a stop to this.

But it did something more. It brought stability and predictability to an industry facing unprecedented challenges.

Lumber companies could plan with confidence, without the threat of punitive U.S. tariffs hanging over them.

More broadly, this agreement marked an important step forward for the North American forestry sector, a sector that is living through some tough times.

In the face of the U.S. housing crisis and global economic uncertainty, Canadians working in this industry have shown resilience and determination.

They’ve forged ahead, innovating and modernizing their operations and searching for new markets overseas.

They’ve laid the foundation for a vibrant forestry sector in the years ahead.

Our government is strongly committed to helping the forestry sector and other sectors of our economy succeed in markets around the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific area, where a large part of Canada’s economic future lies.

Already, lumber exports are arriving in China from Canada in record quantities, thanks in part to our government’s support for building the Asia-Pacific Gateway and our ambitious plan to diversify Canada’s export markets.

However, the United States will always be Canada’s number one trading partner.

And despite the challenging global economic times we find ourselves in, the Softwood Lumber Agreement has been there to provide secure access to the U.S. market, sustaining so many Canadian producers and the families and communities that depend on them.

Today, backed by the overwhelming support of Canada’s lumber industry and provincial governments, we’re extending that agreement for two more years, until October 12, 2015.

We’re sending a clear message that our government is committed to securing stable, predictable access to the U.S. market for years to come.

We’ll be bringing this agreement before Parliament shortly.

I hope that our colleagues from all sides of the House of Commons will recognize the great benefits of the Softwood Lumber Agreement and will stand up for forestry workers by standing with us and supporting this agreement.

Lumber mills provide jobs, support families and contribute to the success of communities—and ultimately to the success of Canada.

Our government understands the importance of trade to our economy.

Trade represents one out of every five jobs in Canada, as well as over 60 percent of our economic activity.

That’s why we’ll continue standing up for our exporters in markets around the world, including the United States—fighting for their interests and opening doors to new opportunities that will spark jobs and prosperity in communities across Canada.

Today’s announcement is yet another example of this commitment in action and yet another example of what makes the Canada-U.S. partnership the greatest trading relationship in the world.

Thank you.