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TPP trade deal – Will restrictions on raw log exports be eliminated?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 @ 3:44 AM

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of the Harper government’s decision to enter the TPP negotiations and is virulently opposed to what she calls Canada’s outdated “supply management” system, which includes raw log restrictions.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: peter.ewart@shaw.ca


TPP is all about transnational rights and has nothing to do with national sovereignty or local economies. Harper said when Canada hoisted the G7 that Canadians need to learn to accept “enlightened sovereignty” meaning our country takes a back seat to transnational rights. That is why Harper pushed FIPA with China giving Chinese companies the right to sue in secret tribunals for any democratically elected government regulations that impact perceived rights of Chinese companies to make profits in Canada. The Chinese will use this new ‘right’ to sue for all lost profits if Enbridge Gateway gets stopped.

TPP involves mostly countries Canada all ready has free trade agreements with in addition to a few third world countries aligned against China. It represents an opportunity for the multinational corporations to write their own bill of rights that supersedes our own constitution.

Most alarming IMO is the dismantling of things like raw log export controls, as well as the elimination of supply side controls for dairy. It will kill the rural economy. Dairy farms will no longer be viable anywhere outside of the major metropolitan areas and the rural areas will not only loose their farming economy, but will pay a higher price for getting basic essentials like a jug of milk. And with the restrictions on raw log exports lifted we will become nothing more than primary he wears of wood with secondary manufacturing done in low wage low environment arbitrage based trade arrangements that benefit only the 1% at the expense of a viable local economy for all else.

TPP is a total betrayal of our national interest that has been developed over decades in favour of globalist banksters and day traders.

So long as we’re unwilling to face up to the fact that there are currently no industrialised countries anywhere on planet Earth that can fully buy and pay for ALL their own production from ALL the incomes distributed as wages, salaries, and profits (dividends) paid out in the course of that production we’re going to have endless arguments about the issues Peter and Eagleone are addressing above. Because whether it’s the TPP, NAFTA, or any of the other so-called ‘trade’ agreements we’ve made, or raw log exports, or the viability of dairy farms, or anything else, we continue to miss the most important issue. Why should we have to import some other country’s ‘money’, which is in essence only an effective demand for ITS products, not OURS, to be able to live? Surely it should be self evident that this is neither sensible nor sustainable. Examine the role that ‘finance’ currently plays. Instead of pretending, as we’ve been wont to do for far too long, that the ‘figures’ used ACCURATELY reflect physical reality. When they don’t.

Well said Eagleone.

I don’t know who it was that first allowed raw logs export but whoever they are should have to face the thousands of families who have lost jobs because of it. I can see certain types of logs exported, as in dead pine for log building but logs to be processed into lumber, and a lot of our premium logs go for that, should have never been allowed.
It is actually eliminating jobs for Canadians.

Eagleone wrote:-“Most alarming IMO is the dismantling of things like raw log export controls, as well as the elimination of supply side controls for dairy. It will kill the rural economy. Dairy farms will no longer be viable anywhere outside of the major metropolitan areas and the rural areas will not only loose their farming economy, but will pay a higher price for getting basic essentials like a jug of milk. And with the restrictions on raw log exports lifted we will become nothing more than primary he wears of wood.”
I have news for you, Eagle. Dairy farms, even with ‘supply side controls’, are becoming just as non-viable here as forest products manufacturing is. ‘Supply side controls were put in so that the poor tit-puller on the then typical 40 and 60 acre dairy farm would have a chance in a market that was otherwise boom or bust. They did absolutely nothing to control the farmer’s other costs, which continued to rise. He had to keep getting bigger to try to meet them, or get out. Quota became his ticket to a reasonable retirement. By selling it. Now we have ‘supply side controls’ that are making the survivors, nearly all of them very large operations, (one in our area has just spent 4 million for a fully computerised automated milking/feeding system where the cows will be literally untouched by human hands), quite well off (for the moment), but are certainly NOT adding to the cherished ‘jobs’ so many seem to worship. Anything but. And the cost of a jug of milk here is still way more than it is across the line in Washington State. And the same thing is true in truly competitive industries, relatively speaking, like lumbering.

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 @ 7:48 AM by Give more

I don’t know who it was that first allowed raw logs export but whoever they are should have to face the thousands of families who have lost jobs because of it.


Have those jobs disappeared because of log exports or have they disappeared because they could not compete in the global market? Is there any point in having a sawmill running if no one is buying it’s output?

The solution is not as simple as stopping raw log exports. There has to be something to export and there has to be someone willing to buy that product.

Right on Axman. I don’t like raw log exports very much. BUT, with the closing of sawmills due to inability to compete in the global market, there is one part of it that remains viable: That is logging – and the resultant exports.
So we cut out raw log exports and we simply add to the unemployment rolls. Is that what we want?
And don’t forget, this does not only concern fallers, buckers and machine operators but also many of those involved in the service industry concerning machine sales and repairs.

As regards to our competing in global markets, isn’t an hour’s labor an hour’s labor wherever it’s performed? Isn’t the true measure of our competitiveness just how much output that hour’s labor generates in product compared to our competitors elsewhere? We have sawmills in BC, even ones that are not state-of-the-art, where it is verifiable fact that the output per day per man is far higher than it is in plants in many of the countries we’re supposed to be competing with. They may well pay lower wages and have a lower standard of living than we do. Is that what we want to win when we win this kind of global competition? The lowest wages and lowest standard of living of them all? If it isn’t, then just what is it we’re trying to gain?

I do not disagree with axman’s comments above in the slightest. But the kind of competition we’re up against isn’t that of a nature where we can ever win. It’s one of financial manipulation, where such things as currency exchange rates work more against us than they do for us. Lets fix that first. Put things on a level playing field, and compete honestly, and see what we can do. I’ll wager we’ll find ourselves highly competitive if we do.

Corporate greed backed by those we employ, our own govt! Time to end the madness and take back our country.

An opinion piece in The Tyee by Torrance Coste 4 Feb 2015.

Raw Log Exports: A made in BC problem that’s only getting worse.

He uses BC Stats to show how raw log exports have shot up.

**As recently as the mid-1990s, raw log exports only made up a tine sliver of the forest sector. By the early 2000s however, the provincial government was feverishly promoting the practice. As raw log shipments increased, so did the outrage from forest industry workers, unions, environmentalists, resource policy experts and many others.**

**The 2014 data–available from BC Stats indicaes that raw log exorts have reached record levels in recent years. In 1997, for example, less than 200,000 cubic metres of BC timber was exported in raw form. For the past three years, raw log shipments have exceeded 5.5 million cubic metres annually.**

** In just five years, from 2009 to 2013, annual raw log exports jumped from under 2.5 million cu metres to well over 6.5 million cubic metres.**

Read the article you might find it interesting.

In any event I think that we can safely say that raw log exports and the threat to jobs lies with the Provincial Government, and not with Harper and the Conservatives. Especially considering that foresty is a Provincial responsibility.

So lets leave Harper out of it and go after those who are really responsible.

Another interesting stat in the article is that the price for raw logs has actually fallen by almost 50 percent in the last 15 years.

Almost 97 per cent of all Canadian raw log exports come from BC–the amount shipped from any other province is negligible.

It could well be that the price of raw logs seems to have fallen, on average, because a larger volume of logs is being exported now, and more are often lower grade logs than was previously the case. So far as I’m aware, the so-called ‘surplus test’, where BC mills can block the export of raw logs if those logs are needed by them here, (this, I think, is what the advocates of unfettered ‘free trade’ are trying to have abolished), is actually Federal government legislation. I believe it was first imposed under the old War Measures Act in the early years of World War Two to ensure BC mills had adequate timber in a time when some American lumber firms with timberland holdings on the Coast were exporting BC logs to feed their mills in the still neutral USA. The relevant section of the War Measures Act was re-proclaimed when Diefenbaker was PM, and has been in force since. It is well known in the Coastal industry that an independent sawmill ‘blocking’ an export raw log sale by a major timberland holder is committing economic suicide.

Historically, raw log exports from any jurisdiction have not been long sustainable. It makes no sense to send less than a third of the footage in round, raw log form that could be sent in the same amount of space on a boat, or truck, barge, or railcar as sawn square or rectangular lumber. The shipping costs are simply too high. The only things that seem to make raw log exports viable are the ‘financial’ manipulations involved in the exchange of one country’s currency for another, and the fact that some countries receiving our raw logs, China, in particular, are also able to ‘externalise’ a great number of the costs industry in North America now has to bear.

I agree with Palopu’s comment, raw log exports are a made in BC problem.

“From 2002 to 2012, over 47 million cubic meters of raw logs were exported from BC to foreign mills in China, the USA, Japan, Korea, and other nations. This contrasts to about 14.8 million cubic meters from 1991 to 2001 under the NDP government. Over the past two years alone, in 2011 and 2012, record levels of raw logs were exported from BC, 13.2 million cubic meters in total.” – See more at: www. ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=653#sthash.UGLS7aHO.dpuf

Raw log exports are just one of many resources this Christy Clark government has taken a “wild west” approach to extracting and shipping overseas at ridiculously low prices, this same approach is being taken with our natural gas as well. A Good deal for foreign corporations and countries, not so good for us!

I think international trade should be based on a sliding scale for an import tax. If they meet the Canadian standard for environmental regulation and they have the same pay scales with currency factored in… then they can trade freely… any arbitrage on the labor then the import tax climbs incrementally to offset the arbitrage factor that takes advantage of lower labor cost in foreign countries.

The Americans do it with our softwood lumber exports, so its not like the precedent hasn’t already been set.

Company submits its factory worker pay scale and if its in line with ours then they can trade with us freely… and vice-versa.

Good idea, Eagle. That would be a start towards having a level playing field in international trade, so meaningful comparisons could be made in regards to just who is actually more efficient in producing various products. Unfortunately, though, there is a sort of ‘black magic’ associated with anything ‘financial’. And we’d have people instantly objecting that anything that challenges the idea that ‘money’ is really anything more than mere accountancy would lead us to ruination. They’re so muddled in their thinking that they can’t see how any place that continually exports more real wealth than it imports is physically getting poorer, not richer. Of course we get ‘money’ for the difference. Only whoever looks at just what it will (still) buy?

The Lax Kw’alaams have been exporting raw logs for years…..approx15 yrs….and wood that they bought outside of their territory.

While you all are sitting around the deck chugging Bells wine, you should ask him what he thinks about raw log exports.

When it comes to BC raw log exports to China you really needs to see the bigger picture, and Peter Ewart painted it for us more than two years ago. PAY ATTENTION!!!

“Interestingly, a little over a month later on November 26th, Canfor announced plans to invest in a new joint venture mill in China on the country’s northern coast. This mill will be importing lumber from British Columbia and cutting it into metric sizes for Chinese buyers.

Canfor’s joint venture is with a Chinese based company, Tangshan Caofeidian Wood Industry Inc., which is a division of the giant Hebei Wenfeng Industrial Group. The Industrial Group set up Caofeidian Wood with the expressed goal “to use Canada and the world’s global forest resources to feed China’s growing demand for wood products.” The Group has a Canadian affiliate, LJ Resources Ltd. and currently owns 16% of the shares of BC-based Conifex.

Another interesting feature of this new Canfor / Caofeidian Wood venture is that Caofeidian Wood is also involved in the development of a nearby massive deep water port in northern China that, among other functions, will be a hub for the importation of lumber and raw logs from BC and other locations. This “Log Port”, as it is called, will include a fumigation facility, which is important, because without it, wood can only be shipped to it in winter months. As Russ Taylor of Vancouver-based Wood Markets Group says, “the B.C. logging sector now has the opportunity to export logs year-round to a new port” (1).

www. 250news.com/2013/12/02/while-one-canfor-mill-shuts-down-another-opens-up-in-china/

Does this not explain why BC’s whole log exports have been increasing exponentially over the last few years? Jobs for China, not so much for BC.

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