Two-year extension to 'critical' Softwood Lumber Agreement provides Maine's lumber industry with 'modicum of certainty,' says Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe

WASHINGTON, D.C. , January 23, 2012 (press release) – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, hailed the announcement by United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Ron Kirk and his Canadian counterpart that the two nations have agreed to a two-year extension of the current U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA), in place since 2006. Senator Snowe convened a July 2011 meeting between Ambassador Kirk and lumber industry representatives to discuss challenges facing the U.S. lumber industry, and how to better implement the SLA to address unfair Canadian lumber subsidies undercutting American industry.

Senator Snowe said:

“A two-year extension of this historic and critical Softwood Lumber Agreement is welcome news, and provides Maine’s lumber industry with a modicum of certainty moving forward. A return to the conditions prior to the agreement would be devastating for Maine lumber companies, who can compete with anybody when the conditions are equal. Going forward, our government absolutely must do more to ensure that enforcement occurs promptly once allegations of trade violations are reported and USTR conducts its legal review. Swift enforcement of the Agreement will do much to level the playing field for forestry and logging industry employees in Maine, and the vital communities these jobs support. We must do everything we can to maintain and improve our unique partnership with Canada, while simultaneously protecting the industries and interests that have provided well-paying jobs and economic opportunity for Maine families.”

BACKGROUND: On July 12, 2011, Senator Snowe convened a meeting of lumber industry representatives and Ambassador Kirk to address concerns over enforcement of the U.S.–Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA), which was originally negotiated in 2006 to address unfair Canadian lumber subsidies undercutting American industry. Following that meeting, Senator Snowe sent a letter to Ambassador Kirk on July 14th urging him to continue enforcing the SLA as discussion of its renewal moved forward.

Additionally, Senator Snowe was the first Member of Congress to publicly call on the Obama Administration to initiate the dispute resolution process in the case of British Columbia’s timber price reduction policies in a July 8, 2010, call to U.S. Trade Representative Kirk, and Senator Snowe has been a strong proponent of using the SLA’s dispute resolution process to remedy the harm done to Maine’s softwood lumber industry.

As a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade policy, Senator Snowe has long championed policies to level the playing field for American workers in trade-sensitive industries. In a February 12, 2009 letter, Senator Snowe called on President Obama to address the terms of the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement during his scheduled meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa. The U.S. softwood lumber industry first brought forward allegations of British Columbia’s trade violations in mid-2007. On October 8, 2010 the Administration finally took the first step in the dispute resolution process by requesting consultations with Canada under the 2006 Agreement. And on January 18, 2011, consistent with Senator Snowe’s requests, the USTR formally requested arbitration proceedings with Canada to put a halt to British Columbia’s violations. This dispute is currently under review by the London Court of International Arbitration, which is an internationally respected forum under which all SLA arbitrations take place.

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