Sunday, April 30, 2006

Suspicions confirmed

The Canadian Press confirms my concern that while every possible voice against Canada's position was consulted during the softwood lumber negotiations, Harper deliberately left Canada's stakeholders away from the table in order to force them to buy in afterward:
Canadian industry leaders, who'd been closely consulted in past talks, were kept out of the loop initially. The concern was too many voices might create static before the outlines of a proposal were ready.

U.S. negotiators, meanwhile, consulted directly with the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, whose trade complaints produced the duties.
Keep in mind that even the historical composition of past talks had failed to include some stakeholders with an interest in eliminating the tariff, including particularly lumber importers and construction groups who just a month ago were urging Canada to defend its position. But rather than seeking to strengthen his side to move negotiations toward a more favourable result, Harper secured his deal only by ensuring that Canadian interests wouldn't be represented (or even consulted) at the negotiating table.

Also unsurprisingly given the outcome, the Cons' focus was purely on short-term gains rather than the long-term implications of the deal - and that fact was made clear in the Cons' message in trying to secure agreement:
Federal officials pushed Canadian producers to think of the big picture. Would they be any happier, any better off, a week from now if they rejected this deal?
Had the time frame been expanded beyond the honeymoon period of the next week, producers would surely have had a different perspective. The cash infusion may well be a strong short-term incentive, but it's not hard to anticipate that years down the road, producers will wish the government had pursued one more line of litigation to secure payment of the illegal tariffs, rather than locking the industry into managed trade for the next seven years or more.

Not that anybody should be surprised with a short-sighted, poorly managed effort from Harper's government. But seldom are the facts laid bare quite as thoroughly as they have been on softwood lumber...and that will give Canadians a strong frame for comparison next time a similar situation comes up.

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