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Wimps in trade dispute - Bob Michels (6/02)

OK No more Mr. Nice Guy! Do not get mad, get even! I am mad as hell and I am not going to put up with it any more! Yep. That sums up just how I am feeling today. Those of you who know me are probably surprised by this.
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OK No more Mr. Nice Guy! Do not get mad, get even! I am mad as hell and I am not going to put up with it any more!

Yep. That sums up just how I am feeling today. Those of you who know me are probably surprised by this. You know me as a rather cool, unflappable guy, able to see all sides and generally open to reason. Maybe so, but not today.

What has me so upset? Well, to simply attribute it to the renewal of the 29 per cent anti-dumping duties to be levied on our softwood lumber exports to the United States does not really capture the reasons for my upset.

No, I am upset because this is the third or fourth time that the U.S. has arbitrarily and without a shred of merit imposed trade barriers to block Canadian access to their lumber markets. These measures are just one more attempt to bully our country and our forest products industry into adopting measures to prop up their inefficient lumber manufacturers. And, I am upset that 10,000 or moreCanadians are out of work because their employers cannot remain viable in the face of a 29 per cent surcharge on the value of their products.

Despite all their lofty rhetoric, the U.S. government panders to shoddy pork barrel politics and makes a mockery of their claim to be free traders. In fact, the U.S. has never practiced free trade when it does not serve their interests. More important, they just do not understand the concept of fair trade -the basis of a good business or political partnership. Partnerships. That has been the basis of U.S. - Canada relations since the Second World War. We have contributed more than our fair share.

When California ran short of power, when the Arab states threatened to restrict oil imports to the U.S., when natural gas shortages occurred in the U.S. who was expected to make up the shortfalls? And, if we seemed hesitant, who was quickly reminded that there would be consequences?

Now you can better understand the reasons for my anger. You see, I am not angry with the Americans. That is like getting angry at a wolf for preferring to eat fresh-killed red meat.

No, the focus of my anger is our own federal government. Wimps? Too weak a word. The words I prefer to use cannot be printed here. In my view, we need our courage restored and we need to take on the bully, even at the risk of a bloody nose.

What about a 29 per cent surcharge on electricity exports, natural gas exports, oil exports, water exports? Call it an environmental reclamation surcharge since our resources are used to generate air pollution in the U.S. that flows back across our border? Why not ban the export of raw logs that are then processed into lumber in the U.S.?

Maybe I am proposing totally impractical responses but, like many Canadians, I almost do not care. Where is our courage? Where is our backbone? Damn it all! I am mad as hell. Come on Jean. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Bob Michels is an author and consultant from Atikokan.




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