Everything from the Mountain Pine Beetle to sustainability was discussed during the Forestry Forum today. However, it was the Softwood Lumber Agreement that was top of mind, dominating most of the panel conversations.
“We produce over half of the softwood lumber and we are the largest exporter to the US,” says the President and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries, Susan Yurkovich. “Lumber is a very important industry for our province and it is very important for the economy. So access to the US market and a new Softwood Lumber Agreement is something that is very important to a lot of folks who are here.”
The conditions set out in the Canada-US Softwood Lumber Agreement expired last year. Negotiations with the new administration will begin soon. US President Donald Trump’s “US first” mentality is a concern, but the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson, says a managed trade agreement is in the best interest for both parties. “I think if he wants to build the economy in the US, he should understand –and he knows the importance of the lumber industry to building that economy, he wants to make sure that he has affordable housing. A managed trade agreement is good for the US industry and it’s good for our industry.”
BC has made a huge effort in growing and diversifying our markets outside of the US. The province recently sent out the largest shipment of wood in its history to India.
“We are moving about 30% of our products are now going to Asian markets which is great so we are reducing our dependency on US markets,” says Yurkovich, “but the US is our neighbour, they need our lumber and it is still going to continue to be very a important market for BC forest products.”
BC Ministers will head to Ottawa next week to help create a strategy for the talks. Premier Christy Clark says they won’t wave the white flag in the trades talks, and promises to only settle on the best possible deal for BC workers.