The Ottawa Sun





Swallowing staggering legal bills and heavy spinoff costs was Canada's tough lesson that trade disputes like softwood lumber must be resolved before they explode into a cottage industry, says Trade Minister David Emerson.

Emerson estimates the softwood battle cost Canada more than $100 million in legal fees, while his U.S. counterpart puts the price tag for both sides at $400 million US. And that doesn't include exorbitant administrative costs incurred by companies, the price of serial investigations and external costs to the economy from bad attitudes and lost trade opportunities.


"The No. 1 lesson out of softwood lumber is that there will be disputes, but you've got to solve them in a relatively timely and more immediate way," Emerson says.

"Because once a dispute is allowed to simmer and percolate for a long enough period of time, it almost becomes a self-perpetuating dispute where people become dependent upon it to earn their income and positions become entrenched and animosities develop."

Emerson says the softwood agreement signed with the U.S. this week frees up Canada to explore other opportunities with the U.S. and build new ties with other overseas markets.

"It's been a real problem, a festering wound, and to have that dealt with is a fundamental step forward that will allow us to continue to broaden the number of issues and the number of co-operational opportunities with the U.S. in particular we can take advantage of," he says.

"It became very broad and affected many areas, and I don't think you can overstate how important it has been for the reshaping and the re-engagement of Canada's economic relationship with the U.S."

Emerson's department is also assessing how best to build trade with South America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and possibly the Mideast.

"We're assessing where we can get the greatest benefit for Canada in a relatively timely way," he says. KEYWORDS=NATIONAL