July 31, 2006

Canada-US softwood deal can be amended: minister

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A U.S.-Canada softwood lumber agreement
can be legally amended if both governments agree, Canada's
Trade Minister David Emerson said on Monday, adding that he did
not think more improvements would be necessary.

"If you read the final text you'll note that it can be
amended by agreement of both parties," Emerson said in
testimony to a parliamentary trade committee.

"There is an 18-month time frame, particularly for some
issues relating to the coastal industry in (British Columbia),
in the event there is work coming out of that that both parties
to the agreement think should be done, then it is legally
possible to make such amendments," he said.

Canada and the United States initialed an agreement on July
1 to end a longstanding trade dispute over softwood lumber. The
government has insisted since then that no more improvements
can be made to the deal despite demands for changes by forestry
industry groups.

When pressed by lawmakers to explain why the government
said negotiations were terminated when the text of the accord
allows for amendments, Emerson said those changes were an
integral part of the text allowing for incremental improvements
in the future.

"I said it's final at this time. The agreement itself
contemplates there will be further work," he said.

"The amendments I'm referring to would come out of a
technical process involving the parties to the agreement
examining some of the issues that remain unresolved."