Sunday, September 17, 2006

On dangerous lessons

The Sun reports on the lessons which David Emerson believes he's learned from the softwood lumber debacle. And judging from what Emerson seems to believe, it looks like the softwood sellout may be just the beginning of what the Cons are willing to give away in order to avoid disputes caused by Canada seeking to hold the U.S. to its previous bargains:
Swallowing staggering legal bills and heavy spinoff costs was Canada's tough lesson that trade disputes like softwood lumber must be resolved before they explode into a cottage industry, says Trade Minister David Emerson...

"The No. 1 lesson out of softwood lumber is that there will be disputes, but you've got to solve them in a relatively timely and more immediate way," Emerson says.

"Because once a dispute is allowed to simmer and percolate for a long enough period of time, it almost becomes a self-perpetuating dispute where people become dependent upon it to earn their income and positions become entrenched and animosities develop."...

"It's been a real problem, a festering wound, and to have that dealt with is a fundamental step forward that will allow us to continue to broaden the number of issues and the number of co-operational opportunities with the U.S. in particular we can take advantage of," he says.

"It became very broad and affected many areas, and I don't think you can overstate how important it has been for the reshaping and the re-engagement of Canada's economic relationship with the U.S."
Needless to say, the "cottage industry" suggestion is about as ridiculous a straw man as one could try to create under the circumstances. The only "cottage industry" which Canada should be concerned about on the softwood lumber file is CFLI - which of course was rewarded for its efforts with half a billion dollars. Now, equivalents in other industries will have nothing but added incentives to perpetuate themselves with a continual stream of baseless trade complaints against Canadian exporters - knowing that PMS will readily pay their bills in the end if it'll make the U.S. happy.

But as long as a cottage industry is working against Canada's best interests, the Cons don't seem to have the least bit of problem funding it. The Cons only seem to want to step in with their "co-operational" philosophy to ensure that Canada's businesses won't endanger complete goodwill between Canada and the U.S. by inconveniently pointing out the illegal wounds inflicted by American protectionism.

Which means that there's little reason to think that other industries will start with anywhere as strong a bargaining position as the Cons happily frittered away on softwood lumber. Instead, Emerson and company are looking to make sure that future capitulations are immediate. And from the softwood lumber experience, there can be no doubt that the Cons are willing to throw any Canadian industry under the bus if it'll add to PMS' reputation for "co-operating" with Bushco.

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