Victory Part One
It wasn’t unexpected, but it’s still gratifying. The NAFTA panel has ordered (http://webapps.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/minpub/Publication.asp?FileSpec=/Min_Pub_Docs/106316.htm&Language=E) the United States to correct it’s determination that Canada was dumping softwood lumber into their markets. Apparently when the United States did their calculations to determine that we were providing lumber below cost, they were using the numbers from their own market, not from ours. A similar tactic would be if Canada declared American Oranges to be being sold below costs because it costs so much more to grow oranges up here.
The final determination on this case will be made on July 22nd, shortly after this article comes out. I am fairly confident, given all that we’ve seen so far, that it will be in Canada’s favour. Hopefully what will follow from this is a proper determination that Canada’s softwood lumber industry is not subsidized, it’s simply different. From that then would come a reversal of all of the duties paid so far, giving our companies somewhat of a boost to get them back to a competitive state. Unfortunately, the US’s little ploy has already done the damage in putting thousands of our people out of work and severely hampering our lumber industry, giving their own industry time to begin to pull ahead.
What NAFTA lacks, of course, is any means to actually do justice in this matter. The people who were put out of work, who possibly lost their homes because of this unfair duty, will never be properly compensated for what they were put through. So long as the agreements allow imposition of duties without NAFTA approval, and no penalties for companies that benefit from when duties are imposed improperly, we will see this kind of behaviour continuing.
In fact, as the softwood lumber case comes to a close, we now have a new case (http://www.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2003/03/04/36137-cp.html) to contend with regarding our grain. The United States is looking toward putting duties on our grain sales and transportation down to the U.S., in spite of the huge subisidies that America already provides to their own farmers. Having seen and beaten nine of these challenges already, the likelihood of a ruling going against Canada in this arena is very small, but this has not stopped an initial 4% duty being forced from our farmers in the interim.
In my view, instead of being able to impose preliminary penalties, government should be forced to take their case to the NAFTA arbitration process, and if it is determined then, by an impartial international group that unfair trade is going on, the penalties can be made such to not only compensate for the amount of subsidy, but also to compensate for the length of time it has been occurring. This would prevent the situation we see today, where an unfair accusation leads to an unfair hardship that is never really compensated for.
The Ontario Government is investing one billion dollars (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2003/07/14/c2067.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) into the new Cancer Research Centre of Ontario. Their goal is nothing less than the elimination of breast and prostate cancer. Only two days later, Reuters released a report (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_13392.html) on how men can reduce their prostate cancer risk by taking their own health in hand, so to speak. Now, I’m not saying the two occurrences are in any way related, but I just found the coincidence funny.
In any event, one billion dollars is certainly a large stepping stone in the right direction if we’re ever going to cure cancer. Let’s hope it works.