Softwood Lumber Deal Is On Its Way, Horgan Says

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks in Victoria on June 29, 2017.

VICTORIA — British Columbia Premier John Horgan says Canada and the United States are close to reaching a softwood lumber trade deal that could come as early as next month.

Horgan made the comments Thursday during a conference call from Washington, D.C., following two days of meetings with trade officials from President Donald Trump’s administration and Canada’s ambassador to the U.S.

Horgan said talks between Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross are ongoing and it appears they are close to reaching a market-share agreement.

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“There have been intense negotiations between Mr. Ross and Minister Freeland, and they’re very close to an agreement but there are challenges with the representatives on the (U.S. Lumber) Coalition that brought the dispute to a head,” Horgan said.

The coalition, which represents American lumber producers, filed a petition last November asking the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission to limit Canadian lumber shipments. The group claimed Canada unfairly subsidizes its lumber industry, harming U.S. workers who are experiencing mounting unemployment.

Trump team slapped tariffs on Canadian wood

Earlier this year, the Trump administration imposed tariffs and duties averaging 27 per cent against Canadian softwood producers.

Horgan said he stressed the need for a renewed lumber trade pact that is fair to his province, Canada’s largest exporter of softwood lumber.

The B.C. premier met with Ross and Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade secretary, and one of the top officials in charge of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Horgan also met with Washington state Rep. Congressman Dave Reichert, who sits on the Ways and Means committee overseeing tax-writing policy.

“I just wanted to make the case again to these senior representatives that B.C. wants a fair deal,” Horgan said. “We want to make sure it’s a deal that is in the interests of B.C., and as the largest player on the Canadian side in terms of market share, we want to make sure they understand we are not prepared to give and give and give.”

I made it abundantly clear to Minister Freeland and to the prime minister that this is the highest priority…John Horgan

British Columbia produces about half of Canada’s softwood lumber.

Last year, the province’s forest industry accounted for $14 billion in exports, amounting to 35 per cent of all B.C. goods exported. Forestry directly employs more than 60,000 people in over 140 communities around B.C.

Horgan said he wanted to impress upon U.S. trade officials the economic importance of the forest industry to thousands of families and hundreds of communities. He said he also made that case in Ottawa this week when he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I made it abundantly clear to Minister Freeland and to the prime minister that this is the highest priority we have in terms of protecting jobs and growing our economy,” Horgan said.

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

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Goodbye, Teavana: Starbucks Shuts Down Chain Over Disappointing Earnings

NEW YORK — Starbucks plans to shutter all its Teavana stores as it seeks to improve its financial performance.

The company said Thursday it will close all 379 Teavana locations over the coming year. It had acquired the mall-based chain in late 2012, and said this past April that it was reviewing options for it. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson noted declining foot traffic at malls.

Teavana has 56 locations in Canada, including 30 in Ontario, nine in Alberta and six in British Columbia.

“We felt it was an appropriate time to take the decision and begin shutting down those stores,” he says.

Starbucks also reported global sales growth of 4 per cent at established locations for the quarter ended July 2, fueled by higher average spending per visit. But the frequency of customer visits was flat from a year ago.

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In the U.S., sales rose 5 per cent at established locations, also driven mostly by higher spending. The Seattle-based company cited “ongoing macro pressures impacting the retail and restaurant sectors” that have made it more cautious going into the next quarter.

Sales at established locations in its Asia unit rose just 1 per cent during the three-month period. Earlier in the day, Starbucks announced plans to acquire the remaining 50 per cent stake of its East China joint venture that it does not already own, making it the operator of all Starbucks stores in mainland China.

It said it will sell its 50 per cent stake in its Taiwan joint venture so that the stores there are run by local operators.

For the quarter, Starbucks Corp. earned $691.6 million, or 47 cents per share. Excluding one-time items, it earned 55 cents per share, in line with Wall Street expectations. Total revenue was $5.66 billion, less than the $5.76 billion expected.

Starbucks shares rose 5 cents to $59.55 in extended trading.

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NAFTA Crunch Time Is An Opportunity To Fix Problematic Deal

A car hauler heading for Detroit, Michigan, drives on the lane to Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, April 28, 2017.

With talks set to formally begin in a few weeks on a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, the possibility exists to finally fix some of the very serious problems with the deal.

This is the first such opportunity since the deal came into effect in 1994, and we are not likely to get another for many years.

It is imperative, then, that we get this right. The release of the Trump administration’s list of priorities for the talks raises many concerns about what the renegotiation could mean for workers – not only in Canada, but in the U.S. and Mexico, as well.

Despite his bold promises, Trump proposes little to help workers get a better deal.

Donald Trump is no working class hero, and his administration’s proposals for NAFTA make it clear that his election rhetoric was little more than bluster.

Trump rode a wave of working class resentment to the White House last year by exploiting fears and bitterness about trade deals, and the devastating impact they’ve had on good jobs across the U.S., especially in manufacturing.

He callously played into every xenophobic obsession in the darker corners of his country to build his own brand as a defender of working people and good jobs. He promised to walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he did, and to renegotiate or tear up NAFTA – calling both deals job killers.

The strategy worked. He tapped into a simmering unease about trade, whipped into a flame and won the election.

We need to be clear, however. Donald Trump is no working class hero, and his administration’s proposals for NAFTA make it clear that his election rhetoric was little more than bluster.

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Trump’s corporatist agenda for the NAFTA talks would strengthen the power of big companies. There’s vague talk about moving labour and environmental provisions into the main deal, but no detail about what this means. There are similarly vague references to “stakeholder participation.”

There is no mention of killing Chapter 11, which gives corporations the right to sue governments if a law or regulations impedes their profits. Big U.S. companies tend to win such suits, most often to the detriment of Canadians.

Also concerning, Trump has taken a page from the TPP he so publicly abandoned to target our supply management system, call for expanded patent rights that could drive up the price of medications Canadians pay, and to go after foreign ownership rules in telecommunications.

It’s as if he tore up the big and odious TPP, only to try replacing it with smaller, but equally objectionable version.

We cannot let that stand.

For decades, progressive groups including unions and non-governmental organizations have pointed out the many failings of NAFTA. That message has coalesced in the last few months into specific proposals from labour groups and others calling for an overhaul of NAFTA and a new way of thinking about trade deals that puts workers and the environment first.

These proposals must form the basis of the Canadian government’s agenda as it enters into these negotiations, set to begin August 16-20 in Washington.

It is clear that we need a new approach to trade, starting with NAFTA, one that advances the needs of workers and their communities.

Ottawa has said it wants to pursue a progressive trade agenda going forward. Doing that means such measures as strong and enforceable labour and environmental rules that actually raise standards, abolishing Chapter 11, an overhaul of the rules for auto trade across borders, no supply management changes, protection for cultural industries and no weakening of foreign ownership rules in telecommunications, keeping public services out of NAFTA and developing a fair and equitable model for governments to direct procurement contracts to domestic suppliers. We must also get rid of the current requirement that Canada send oil and gas to the U.S., even if there’s a shortage here.

By ensuring the rights of workers will be protected under NAFTA – such as by making any trade liberalization contingent on strict adherence to the labour provisions of the deal – any blunt instrument such as tariffs could be avoided.

It is clear that we need a new approach to trade, starting with NAFTA, one that advances the needs of workers and their communities.

Let’s not kid ourselves.

The anger at lost jobs and diminished opportunities for our young people is real and justified. The desire for change is strong, and progressive groups need to work together to ensure that leads to positive change – and not more of the same from the likes of Trump.

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