TPP trade deal – Will restrictions on raw log exports be eliminated?
By Peter Ewart
One of the most disturbing things about how Canada’s federal government negotiates free trade deals with other countries is the huge amount of secrecy associated with them. A case in point is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal currently being negotiated with 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including the U.S. and Japan (and which may be finalized sometime during the doldrums of this summer).
And so it is that we only find out on July 6, through a leak to the Canadian Press of government documents marked “secret”, that Japan is pushing Canada hard “to eliminate or modify” the restrictions it has on raw log exports, especially from British Columbia (1).
Curiously, while most Canadians, whether they are trade unionists, business people, environmentalists, First Nations, and even MPs, have been kept in almost total darkness about the negotiations, certain key media pundits appear to have been let into the “loop” by the government.
How else to explain why former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay and Conservative government-friendly academic Jack Mintz have in recent weeks written long columns in media outlets calling for the end to restrictions on raw log exports? (2) (3).
Although Findlay is a federal Liberal, she is a strong supporter of the Harper government’s decision to enter the TPP negotiations and is virulently opposed to what she calls Canada’s outdated “supply management” system, which includes raw log restrictions.
Jack Mintz, of course, was one of the main pundits promoting the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in BC during the referendum several years ago, and strongly advocates against GST exemptions. According to an associate editor at Maclean’s Magazine, Mintz is an economist whose expertise “the Harper government values very, very, very … much” (4).
Is the role of these pundits, who are sympathetic to the TPP and/or connected to the federal government, now to soften up public opinion regarding raw log exports? Is that why they appear to “be in the know” about these negotiations, while ordinary Canadians are not?
The issue of raw log exports has long been a controversial issue in British Columbia, with opponents arguing that increasing these exports means exporting more jobs and blocking the development of a value-added industry, as well as undermining forestry-based communities and, under the terms of such trade agreements, eroding our sovereignty as a province and country.
Currently, most raw logs are exported from coastal BC. Will a relaxation or elimination of restrictions result in more logs being trucked off from the Interior?
In any case, the people of BC, and especially those in forestry-based communities, need to be vigilant.
Something not good could be afoot.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org