Envoy says long-term deal needed with the U.S.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s trade envoy on softwood lumber says the province wants to work with the United States to find a “lasting solution to this long-lived dispute,” but it is ready to fight on behalf of its lumber producers.

David Emerson, a former federal cabinet minister, has been holding meetings this week in Washington, D.C., with officials in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, senators and the National Association of Homebuilders.

He says he’s also been in Ottawa for meetings with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Quebec’s representative to the U.S., Raymond Chretien.

The 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement between Canada and the United expired on Oct. 12, 2015.

Premier Christy Clark says about 40 per cent of B.C.’s rural communities are dependent on forestry and the industry provides more than 60,000 direct jobs in the province.

Emerson said the forest sector supports jobs on both sides of the border.

“We also know that B.C. lumber is a critical part of America’s thriving home-building sector and a thriving home-building sector is a part of America’s long-term economic growth,” he said in a statement released Wednesday. “Litigation will only disrupt the market and create artificial constraints on timber supply that will benefit a select few timber barons and sawmill owners at the expense of American workers and consumers.”

Emerson described his meetings as “a good start.”

“We have differences to overcome but we can — and we must — find a negotiated solution to this dispute for the benefit of both of our countries.”

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