Canada, Japan at odds over B.C. timber in TPP trade talks, documents show

One of Canada’s most protected industries — British Columbia timber — has been targeted by Japan in the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, The Canadian Press has learned.

OTTAWA — One of Canada’s most protected industries — British Columbia timber — has been targeted by Japan in the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, The Canadian Press has learned.

Japan is pushing Canada to eliminate or modify the controls it imposes on B.C. log exports — a practice that is heavily restricted by the federal and provincial governments, and which drives up their cost to foreign buyers.

Details of the forestry impasse with Japan are contained in documents from Canada’s Foreign Affairs department that are marked “secret” and that have been obtained by The Canadian Press.

The revelation comes as Canada continues to face pressure from another TPP country — the United States — which has taken aim at the coveted supply management system that protects the country’s dairy and poultry farmers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that Canada would protect its supply management system while pushing ahead with the TPP because he sees that has vital of the country’s future economic health.

With the October election looming, the trade impasses have implications for Harper. He has invested much political capital in various free trade talks — none bigger than the TPP — as he positions himself as the most reliable steward of the Canadian economy.

But Canada has another fight on its hands with Japan over B.C. forestry, as it tries to break down trade barriers in that sector in Asia.

“Canada is pursuing full tariff elimination for the forestry sector — as you know, tariffs in Malaysia are as high as 40 per cent, as high as 31 per cent in Vietnam and as high as 10 per cent in Japan,” says the April briefing note, prepared for a meeting of senior federal trade officials in Ottawa and their provincial counterparts in B.C.

The memo says talks with Malaysia and Vietnam are progressing well. Not so with Japan, Canada’s largest Asian trading partner.

“Discussions with Japan are ongoing but have been difficult. Japan has very clearly linked the elimination of forestry tariffs to B.C. eliminating or significantly modifying log export controls,” the memo says.

“Our efforts to delink the two continue but are becoming increasingly difficult.”

B.C. exports a small percentage of its logs to foreign markets, including Japan, but must satisfy some strict provincial and federal requirements.

According to one study last year by the Fraser Institute, the result of that protection scheme is that in 2011, logs sold for $74 per cubic metre on the Vancouver Log Market, while the average price for exports hovered around $108.

“Although free trade in logs in not the preferred policy from a B.C. perspective, it certainly is from a global perspective,” says the institute’s June 2014 report on B.C. log policy.

“Canada is currently in talks to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes Japan,” the report adds.

“It is possible that removing all restrictions on log exports as part of a trade agreement could leverage concessions of a similar size that would benefit British Columbia and Canada.”

The report proved prescient, given what is contained in the government’s own April memo, which makes clear there’s serious negotiating taking place between Japan and Canada on forestry issues.

“There have been some suggestions from your officials that Canada settle for no tariff reductions from Japan on forestry products in order to protect our log export control regime,” the memo says.

“This is not an acceptable outcome for Canada; it would put our competitors at a permanent advantage in the Japanese market for one of our primary exports.”

A government spokesman declined comment on what has happened at the negotiating table since April.

With the U.S. Congress recently granting President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the TPP, there is widespread speculation that the deal could be finalized as early as August.

However, the deal will have serious domestic political implications for Harper as he seeks his fourth term as prime minister.

Supply management in sacrosanct in Ontario and Quebec, and so is the forestry sector is in B.C.

The 12 countries in the TPP, including Canada, are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam, and they represent 792 million people with a combined GDP of $28.1 trillion.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Select Alberta physicians to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine next week

Some Alberta physicians will now be offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In an… Continue reading

An example of zero lot line properties. Red Deer County council approved rezoning to allow zero lot line properties on three streets in Springbrook.
Photo from Red Deer County
Narrower house lots being tested in Springbrook to improve affordability

Zero lot line homes will be built on three streets in Springbrook

Mayzie the Canada goose is back nesting in a flower pot on a backyard balcony in Anders on the Lake. (Contributed)
Canada goose is back nesting on Red Deer balcony

Third year in a row geese return

(Black Press file photo).
A third candidate enters Red Deer’s fall mayoral race

Two additional people are campaigning for seats on city council

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta government said in August that it would enter into the agreement to help diversify its energy sector

File photo
City of Wetaskiwin awarded $5.1 million grant for additional RCMP officers

10 Additional RCMP officers to serve the City of Wetaskiwin as a result of the grant.

In this Nov. 12, 1995, file photo, Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy looks on during the second quarter of the Bills game against the Atlanta Falcons at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bill Sikes, File
Former Alouettes head coach Marv Levy tops 2021 Canadian Football Hall of Fame class

The ‘21 class will boost the Hall of Fame’s membership to 316

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, provides an update on health system preparations in Nova Scotia for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in Halifax on Friday, March 6, 2020. Strang says plans are in place to stage the women’s world hockey championship in the province next month with limited spectators.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Nova Scotia plans to allow limited crowds at women’s world hockey championship

All 10 teams in Halifax and Truro must participate in a 14-day quarantine

”Kim’s Convenience” cast member Andrew Phung poses in this undated handout photo. “Kim’s Convenience” has just ended but Andrew Phung is already “knee-deep in ideas and stories” for his next project, “Run the Burbs.” The Calgary-raised actor, who played comical car-rental employee Kimchee on “Kim’s,” co-created the upcoming comedy series and will star in it as a stay-at-home dad with an entrepreneur wife and two kids. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - CBC
‘Kim’s Convenience’ actor Andrew Phung on crafting his own series, ‘Run the Burbs’

‘Run the Burbs’ production could start in the summer or fall

Canisia Lubrin poses in this undated handout photo. Rising literary talent Canisia Lubrin is among the Canadian finalists for the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize. The Griffin Trust announced the three homegrown wordsmiths and four international poets on this year’s short list on Wednesday. Lubrin, who recently received the US$165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize, is nominated for “The Dyzgraphxst” (pronounced diss-graff-ist), published by McClelland and Stewart. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Anna Keenan
Rising writer Canisia Lubrin among Canadian finalists for $65K Griffin Poetry Prize

Griffin will award two winners, one international and one Canadian

A prairie fire in the Burnt Lake district. (Photo by Bert Fors via Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Fires of spring 1931 in central Alberta

Central Alberta has just come through a relatively warm and dry winter… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Opinion: Boris Johnson is to blame for what’s happening in Ireland

Twenty-three years of peace in Northern Ireland, after a sectarian war that… Continue reading

Most Read