Are raw log exports part of the TPP trade deal?
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: email@example.com
- 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/
- “Trans-Pacific Partnership talks: Canada, Japan at odds over B.C. timber.” Canadian Press. July 6, 2015.
- Mintz, Jack. “TPP should raze forest protectionism.” Financial Post. June 29, 2015.
- Wherry, Aaron. “Idea Alert.” Maclean’s Magazine. 24, 2012.
- Findlay, Martha Hall & Jack Mintz. “Here’s Canada’s way forward on supply management.” Globe and Mail. June 10, 2015.
- Wood, Joel & Ian Herzog. “Log export policy for British Columbia.” Fraser Institute. June 2014.
- Johnson, Dave. “Now we know why huge TPP trade deal is kept secret from the public.” Huffington Post. March 27, 2015.
- “Mining, forestry companies hail TPPA.” com. October 6, 2015.