250 News - Your News, Your Views, Now

October 28, 2017 2:10 am

Are raw log exports part of the TPP trade deal?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 @ 3:45 AM

The Harper Conservatives need to answer a simple question.  Are raw log exports part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal?  This, along with any other changes to Canada’s forestry policy, is something that British Columbians and Canadians need to know, and they need to know before the October 19 election.

Throughout these negotiations the Harper government has been hyper-secretive about the TPP negotiations, but has indicated that, even though a deal has been signed, the full text and fine print will not be revealed until long after the election.

Why is this a concern? As noted in an earlier column this summer in 250 News (1), a secret memo was leaked from the Foreign Affairs department of the federal government acknowledging that, as part of the TPP process, intense negotiations were taking place on the issue of lifting forestry tariffs put up by member countries.

However, in return, the memo says, “discussion with Japan are ongoing but have been difficult.  Japan has very clearly linked the elimination of forestry tariffs to B.C. eliminating or significantly modifying log export controls” and that Canada’s efforts to delink the two [issues] “are becoming increasingly difficult” (2).

Simultaneous to this, several major articles in Eastern Establishment newspapers were published on the topic.  For example, Jack Mintz (one of the main promoters of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in BC during the referendum several years ago) wrote a column advocating for the end of raw log export restrictions (3).  Conservative-friendly Mintz was described by Maclean’s Magazine as an economist whose expertise “the Harper government values, very, very, very … much” (4).

Likewise, in tag-team style, former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay wrote another column with Mintz in the Globe and Mail calling for the raw log export restrictions to be ended (5).

In addition, the Fraser Institute, which has been a strong supporter of the Harper government on many issues, published a report claiming that “removing all restrictions on log exports as a trade agreement could leverage concessions of a similar size that would benefit British Columbia and Canada” (6).

Fast forward to this week when the TPP deal has been signed.  As previously noted, the Harper government  does not plan to reveal the text and details of this deal until after the election is over.

Is this acceptable?  Shouldn’t Canadians, and British Columbians in particular, be informed before casting their ballot on October 19th about any change to raw log export restrictions, given that lifting these restrictions could mean even more job losses, mill closures, and outsourcing that has already plagued the forest industry.

Furthermore, does this TPP trade deal freeze in place existing levels of raw log exports which are already at record levels?  Such types of “freezing” have been common practice in other trade deals such as NAFTA.  In that regard, it would be particularly galling in coming years for British Columbians to see raw log exports being maintained at high levels, while BC mills are being shut down for lack of timber.

What would be even more galling is to see Canadian multinational forest companies setting up operations in other TTP countries and processing exported logs from BC in joint ventures.

Using Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses which are said to be included in the TPP agreement, multinational companies can “challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings” and sue for damages.  Will these clauses be used to challenge raw log export restrictions and other forestry policies (7)?  Clarification is needed now.

Given the stakes, workers, contractors, value-added producers, forestry businesses, and community leaders in British Columbia have every justification to demand answers about a trade deal that has been negotiated behind closed doors without even the opposition parties knowing what is going on.

The big forestry multinationals are hailing the deal which they claim will give them access to new foreign markets and bring them prosperity (8).  Why do they have inside information and everyone else in the forestry industry is in the dark?  What has been given up and who has been sacrificed to provide them with what appears to be a sweetheart deal?

End the mystery.  If the Harper government wants to use the TPP deal in an attempt to gain votes, then he must reveal the full contents of this deal and how it could affect, not just the big companies, but all sections of the forest industry, as well as forestry-based communities.

The questions remain: Are raw log export restrictions part of the TPP deal?  And what else has been negotiated that could impact the forestry sector?

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca


  1. Ewart, Peter. “TPP trade deal – Will restrictions on raw log exports be eliminated?” 250 News.  July 8, 2015.  2015/07/08/tpp-trade-deal-will-restrictions-on-raw-log-exports-be-eliminated/
  2. “Trans-Pacific Partnership talks: Canada, Japan at odds over B.C. timber.” Canadian Press.  July 6, 2015.
  3. Mintz, Jack. “TPP should raze forest protectionism.”  Financial Post.  June 29, 2015.
  4. Wherry, Aaron. “Idea Alert.”  Maclean’s Magazine.  24, 2012.
  5. Findlay, Martha Hall & Jack Mintz. “Here’s Canada’s way forward on supply management.”  Globe and Mail.  June 10, 2015.
  6. Wood, Joel & Ian Herzog. “Log export policy for British Columbia.” Fraser Institute.  June 2014.
  7. Johnson, Dave. “Now we know why huge TPP trade deal is kept secret from the public.” Huffington Post.  March 27, 2015.
  8. “Mining, forestry companies hail TPPA.” com. October 6, 2015.



From what I have read they plan a 30 day wait until even an outline of the deal is released and even that without all the details. Apparently the Japanese are setting up a TPP head office staffed with Japanese cabinet members that will be finalizing the details of the deal..

Had the deal been concluded in Hawaii as originally planned. Then the 30 days would have fallen before our election but because of the delay and finalization in Atlanta the deadline has been moved until after our election.

This is such an important and irregular issue that I think the election absolutely needs to be delayed u til after the release of TPP details. Our whole democracy rests on this as well as things like raw log exports.

Canadians deserve to have the knowledge of this deal prior to voting. The details need to hav the secrecy lifted now IMO.

raw logs have been going out of this province at breakneck speed for years under both the Libs(the corporate lapdogs) and NDP (the champion of the working man). nothing to see here folks, move along

Natural resources including raw logs are a provincial responsibility. Meaning no raw logs leave without the Province’s say so. There is one exception to this–native land. Native land falls under Federal jurisdiction.

Any raw logs going out right now are under native jurisdiction. No other logs are going out. Indeed where those logs are going out, there are often no sawmills in the area able to take the logs at an economical price.

The TPP cannot change provincial and federal responsibilities under our constitution. Peter knows that the TPP does not rewrite our constitution. I do not think that Peter is presenting an honest argument. He wants the conservatives out, no mater what the cost and he appears ready and willing to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt to do it.

The real question should be, does the the TPP remove or reduce tariffs on softwood lumber exports? This would make a huge difference to BC.

I say let’s see the text of the TPP agreement.

We will not see the TPP text and the continuation of the Duffy trial until after the election. In the meantime we are being entertained by Harper with relentless niqabbing distractions.

The Lax Kwalaam/ Port Simpson band has been exporting raw logs since the Liberals were in government. They hold three Harvesting Liceses. Their AAC is 850,000 m3. Kudos to them for being successful businesses. I do have an issue if they’ve been able to bypass raw log export restrictions because they are FN controlled.

“These days, Coast Tsimshian Resources is a $100-million business, which employs 225 Band members and holds three forest tenures in Northwestern BC. Its business is focused largely on selling raw logs to foreign and domestic users, particularly China. The potential of sales to China became so lucrative that, in 2008, Coast Tsimshian Resources became the first BC aboriginal forest company to open a sales office there. LFN now also has offices in Los Angeles, New York and Boston and will be opening offices soon in Korea and Japan.”

The only thing that will save us from increased raw log exports, is if Putin the Russian lifts the embargo on Russian log exports to China. If he does that, then there is less need for Canadian, Australian, South American, and Southern US logs.

We should keep in mind that China imports logs from around the World.

I agree that logs in BC should be milled in BC, however the Liberals over the years have killed off a large number of mills and allowed logs to be trucked to larger centres for milling.

Our forest industry was going to hell in a hand basket long before Harper came on the scene, and as pointed out by an above post. Forestry is a Provincial responsibility.

The raw log issue notwithstanding, I think the major pint of controversy with the TPP is whether it primarily benefits corporations or the average Canadian. From what I’ve read (e.g., Robert Reich’s new book on capitalism), TPP is another format for entrenching advantages and entitlements to large corporations in ways that do not benefit the public interests at all. This leads to increasing income disparity and an erosion of the middle-class and even democracy as governments sacrifice the power to enact legislation that benefit the public (such as environmental laws, worker safety rules, and laws governing corporate accountability [e.g., the current Volkswagen situation]).
Simply put, Harper is lying when he says that the TPP will benefit all Canadians.

Krusty. With 12 Countries signing this agreement, would you suggest that Canada opt out. If so what do you think the ramifications of that decision would be.???

Keep in mind that these negotiations have been going on for years, and are just now getting signed.

There are a number of things about these agreements that are not good, however to opt out of say NAFTA and TPP, plus other agreements puts us on the outside looking in.

Ramifications… NONE.. To many fingers in the pot I think.

Nafta has done nothing good for us.. we lost lots of jobs and our exports are taxed hugely yet we hardly tax imports.. the USA owns us due to Nafta when it comes to importing and exporting..

If canada has something other countries want they will still get it but under the terms of the 2 countries involved… now with TPP we had to appease 11 other countries.. that pie isnt divided equally thats for sure.

If TPP is so good then why wont it be open to view for another 10 years.
that sends a bad message dont you think?

90% of the raw log exports from Canada come from BC/.

In 1997 we exported 200,000 cu metres. The average for the past 5 years is about 5.5 Million cu metres. Or roughly 147,250 logging trucks per year.

Since about the year 2000 to date we have lost some 30,000 jobs in the forest industry and have shut down some 70 mills. So a serious problem being ignored by the present Provincial Government.

Perhaps we should take a break from slagging the Federal Conservatives, and look at the real problem in our midst which is the Provincial Government and its sell out to industry. That’s where the real problems lie.

Canadians will bitch about trade agreements, etc, however they do most of their bitching while driving to Walmart in an imported car. They would sell out their Grandmother to get a deal on a dozen eggs.

One way to screw the Corporations to some degree, is to not buy their products. This would have a much bigger effect than bitching on a blog.

So if you don’t like the trade agreements of the TPP then don’t buy the imports from these Countries.

We need to start to support local industry and farmers and get back to the basics.

As it now stands we have a Company in Arkansas, who buys products from China, builds a store in Prince George, and we all flock to Walmart to get the cheap prices. Seems to me the real problem is with Canadian consumers, who have been brainwashed into buying all this cheap crap.

Palopu… you can thank Harper for that.. all most can afford is the cheap stuff. Its not brainwashing..its out of necessity.

Interesting that Hillary Clinton doesnt like the TPP and wants to renegotiate NAFTA..

Walmart expanded into Canada with the purchase of 122 Woolco stores.”

Prime Minister at the time – Stephen Harper – or no, sorry, LIBERAL Jean Chretien then Paul Martin to 2006.

Stats Can – real disposable income in inflation adjusted to 2002 dollars. 1994 $20,185.00 2010 (last year reported on) $25,512.00. So in 2010 at least, Canadians had more disposable income under Harper than they did under the beginning of the Chretien years. At the end of Chretien’s term disposal income was $24,406.00. These are all adjusted to a base year of 2002.

The problem we are having now, is the upper 20% disposable income is growing faster than average, and the lower 20% is growing less than average, hence the squeezing out of the middle class and the structural impoverishment of the lower end.

I have no solutions, but this trend has been carrying on a lot longer than the 4 years that Harper had a majority government.


Palopu, like Ski51, I don’t have a ready solution either, but it seems unlikely that further trade agreements benefiting those who are in the least amount of need are not the solution in any shape or form.
I do my best to deny the multinationals my support. I avoid Walmart and shop at a Vancouver Island grocery chain (since moving back to the island), just bought a Canadian-made grill from a locally owned shop instead of an American grill made in China at Home Depot, get eggs and chickens from a local farmer, buy fish down at the dock, purchase produce in season from another local farmer, and so on. I cannot, however, control where my medications are produced and one of the items that’s leaked out in the TPP is that it will make it illegal for sovereign nations to challenge corporations who purchase patents on older drugs that have run out their proprietary status. They can jack up the prices to whatever point produces profitibility simply by declaring that they consider it an aspect of “free” enterprise to do so. Canada’s efforts, should Ottawa and the provinces ever get their heads together, to reduce the cost of medications and relieve pressure on the system by purchasing drugs that are generically made in huge numbers so that savings can be passed on to consumers would be seriously hobbled if the TPP is allowed to pass. Please tell me this isn’t something you support.

“…and we all flock to Walmart to get the cheap prices. Seems to me the real problem is with Canadian consumers, who have been brainwashed into buying all this cheap crap.”

So, where is the wholly 100% Canadian owned store that sells this cheap crap, or better yet, 100% Canadian made products?

Yesterday I found a can of soup at Jimmy’s, big red Canadian maple leaf on the lid! I bought a dozen – one does not know for how long this uniquely patriotic item will be available!

I remember talking years ago to Mike Harcourt (NDP) about B.C. raw log exports at the PG Exhibition. He shared my concerns but he explained that private landowners such as First Nations can do whatever they want with the trees they harvest. Nothing the government could do! Liberal or NDP. Case closed.

Not true Prince George.

Most of the exported raw logs are from the Southern Coast Area. The Provincial Government became responsible for public forests etc in 1906. The Federal Government has jurisdiction over National Parks, and Native lands (more or less).

The problem with the export of raw logs is that the system can be manipulated. Raw log exports are only allowed if they are surplus, however when they are put of the local market they are priced high, and if no one buys them they then become surplus and can be exported.

Another problem was the closing of some 70 mills. Once these mills were closed we lost some of the capacity to mill these logs, and then they also became surplus. So the problem is a made in BC problem.

In actual fact the price of raw logs has dropped over the past 5/10 years however exporting creates a long term market for those companies that basically do nothing but log and export.

The Private Forest Landowners Assoc., would like to see raw log exports added to the TPP so that the restrictions on exports could be removed. These people actually grow forests and sell their product, and don’t like to be controlled by the Government.

So lots of people for and against every issue. For every Zig there is a Zag.

Prince George. I do agree that it appears that First Nations can log and export as much as they please.

Apparently taxpayers are paying for losses to the forest and agriculture sectors due to the TPP. I see a war on the horizon.

From the article:- “What would be even more galling is to see Canadian multinational forest companies setting up operations in other TTP countries and processing exported logs from BC in joint ventures”
Why would this be “even more galling”? In some instances, such as with our lumber trade with Japan, it would make a great deal of sense. In a traditional Japanese post and beam framed home are up to 1,300 different lumber dimensions. There is no possible way logistically that any mill here in BC could provide every one of those different dimensions and get them to where they are needed in Japan on any kind of a timely basis. The best our mills can do is provide the most common sizes and lengths, and it would be of great benefit to retaining this market for species grown here in BC if we also exported logs of those species to enable provision of those lumber items we can’t possibly manufacture practically here to be cut over there. And preferably in a mill in which our log and lumber suppliers have a stake. It is far more cost effective to ship lumber across the Pacific to Japan than to ship logs en masse. Way more lumber can go in the same space than logs take up. If our mills are efficient, and our costs in line, we won’t lose out to raw log exports. And if are mills aren’t, and our costs are too high, we won’t get any sale for our lumber anyways, even if every log is cut here.

Comments for this article are closed.