Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — after announcing preliminary countervailing duty rates for softwood lumber from Canada this week — on Tuesday said “one of the problems” with NAFTA is that lumber and an unrelated dairy dispute with Canada are two key areas not covered by the trilateral agreement, which he said is stalled in Congress.
[Jenny Leonard] April 25th, 2017 [Inside U.S. Trade]
“If NAFTA were functioning properly we wouldn’t be having these kinds of very prickly, very unfortunate developments back-to-back,” Ross told reporters on April 25, referring to the Commerce department’s preliminary findings of allegedly subsidized Canadian lumber and the dairy dispute that rose to President Trump’s attention last week. “So in that sense it shows that NAFTA has not worked as well as it should.”
Ross, pointing out that the lumber dispute “is not a brand-new issue; it’s been around for quite a while,” said the administration is looking “forward to constructive discussions with the Canadians as we get into NAFTA.”
When asked whether the announcement of the duty margins on lumber will impact broader talks with Ottawa, Ross said that in trade negotiations “everything affects everything else.”
“Everything relates to everything else when you’re trying to negotiate, but what we had tried to do was to clear the air and get this dispute out of the way before the big NAFTA talks went on,” he said at the White House. “That was not possible to achieve, and that’s why we went ahead and released the [lumber] findings.”