Trade Minister Heralds 'Real Breakthrough' on Softwood Lumber Negotiations

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News 2016-03-15

Canada's international trade minister says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's official visit to Washington helped secure a "real breakthrough" in the contentious softwood lumber negotiations.

"We have now managed to get the Americans to the table, we have managed to raise attention to this issue at the very highest levels," Chrystia Freeland said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

"We have the U.S. president announcing in the Rose Garden that he believes a deal can and must be done. That's tremendous," she said. "I don't want to downplay to anyone the complexity — the fiendish complexity — of the softwood lumber issue [but] this was a real breakthrough," she said.

Trudeau and Obama instructed Freeland and her American counterpart, Michael Froman, to explore all options for solving the trade dispute and report back within 100 days.

Canada's new ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, was more pessimistic about the prospect of a deal.

"I've met with the White House about this, we're trying to chart a path forward that has a high degree of possibility of success, but it's tough. It's in the U.S. industry's interest to avoid a long, litigious thing. The only thing that's good for, it's good for lawyers," he told The House in a separate interview.

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