THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN OF CANADA
Tarrifs on Canadian Softwood Lumber Exports
June 19, 2002
The Hon. Pierre Pettigrew, P.C., M.P.,
Minister for International Trade,
Lester B. Pearson Building, Tower B, 5thFloor,
125 Sussex Drive,
Dear Mr. Pettigrew,
Members of the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) assembled for their 109th Annual General Meeting (June 2002) unanimously passed a motion directing the President to write to you expressing their extreme concern about the severe dislocations taking place in provinces of Canada due to the imposition of tariffs on Canadian Softwood Lumber exports.
Over the course of the past year, members studied a proposed resolution dealing explicitly with the trade dispute over softwood lumber. In discussion it was noted that exports of unprocessed logs are not subject to these tariffs thus illustrating that the tariffs are imposed to protect jobs in mills in the United States. By June, members were also concerned about the effect on western farming communities due to the new farm subsidies granted by the American Government to its farmers. Members recognize that the two situations are different and that the softwood lumber dispute has a long history and was exempted from the original Free Trade Agreement.
What is significant is that members accepted a motion directing that the NCWC Economics Convener should examine the growing trade problems between Canada and the United States of America with the intent to develop a possible policy for dealing with these economic dislocations. Many members felt strongly that Canada had to act in a much more vigorous way to protect affected citizens and industries. NCWC members are most concerned about what could be called the multiplier effect when economic hardship affects whole communities. Very often, it is women and children who pay the highest price over the long-term.
In 1988, NCWC members, fearing possible detrimental effects on some sectors of the Canadian economy, adopted a policy on Free Trade that urged the Government of Canada to develop comprehensive and “flexible assistance packages” for persons whose ability to earn a living was adversely affected by the agreement. At that time, members advised the Government that ” they had not taken a stand … either for or against the [Free Trade] agreement, and that the matter [was] under further study.”
NCWC called for assistance to include retraining, relocation assistance, job placement educational upgrading, as well as retirement benefits for older workers, and incentives for new businesses.
Careful examination of NCWC policies adopted in 1998 and 1999 (with special reference to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment) would indicate that NCWC members believe that there is a need to ensure that when negotiating these new all- encompassing agreements, there should be far more input from Civil Society. In particular, NCWC members have called for more participation by women (with the use of Gender-Based Analysis where appropriate) when assessing the long-term benefits and/or risks to some sectors of Canada’ economy, before final texts are accepted. NCWC called for a fair and transparent dispute settlement mechanism.
To conclude, NCWC members are disturbed and dismayed by the far-reaching social effects of recent trade difficulties with Canada’s largest trade partner, and urge the Government of Canada to act as expeditiously as possible to resolve the disputes.
National Council of Women of Canada (founded in 1893) is a federation of organizations and individuals working together to improve conditions of life for women and their families in the communities where they live. NCWC is a member of the International Council of Women, holds Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and is a participating member of the Organization of America States (OAS/CIM).
With best wishes,
National Council of Women of Canada
c.c. Right Hon. Jean Chrétien,
Hon. John Manley
Hon. Bill Graham
Hon. Lyle Vanclief
Hon. Allan Rock
Hon. Claudette Bradshaw
Hon. Jane Stewart
Hon. Jean Augustine