SUN VALLEY, IDAHO -- Canada will push for major changes to NAFTA that
cut short seemingly perpetual trade disputes over softwood lumber and
flashpoints, Prime Minister Paul Martin said yesterday.
In his first trip abroad since the June 28 election, Mr. Martin said
wants the North American free-trade agreement recast so that trade
can quickly -- and definitively -- resolve such disputes. "Open
should mean open markets. There has to be a court of final appeal," he
minutes before speaking to an audience of international media moguls
high-tech tycoons at an exclusive annual retreat in the fashionable
of Sun Valley.
The Prime Minister announced only on Tuesday that he would attend the
Valley conference, which, officially, is not open to the news media.
However, Mr. Martin spoke briefly to reporters before his speech. He
that addressing the conference gave him the opportunity to air
trade concerns before influential media executives from across the
In his speech, he criticized "the lack of commitment, the lack of
to respecting the results of the NAFTA dispute settlement," according
News Corp. chief executive Rupert Murdoch, Hewlett-Packard chairman
Fiorina, Disney chief Michael Eisner and celebrated investor Warren
were among the most familiar names in the audience. Microsoft's Bill
and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger were on the guest list.
Failure to streamline NAFTA will imperil business confidence in Canada,
United States and Mexico -- and could undermine the competitiveness of
three as Asian economies accelerate, Mr. Martin told reporters. "As
countries like China and India come on, North America is going to have
get a lot more efficient. And you can't get efficient if, in fact,
got ongoing trade disputes between the three NAFTA partners."
Mr. Martin singled out the three-year-old dispute over Canadian
lumber exports several times as a motivation for streamlining the
for resolving trade disputes, which lie at the very heart of NAFTA.
panels are empowered to rule on disputes, but their decisions are
appeal on several fronts -- and complainants can launch nearly
cases even if they lose.
The dispute over softwood lumber has dragged on, with one softwood
recently speculating that even if Canada won, its U.S. opponents would
simply launch another complaint. Mr. Martin took direct aim at that
yesterday. "We've got to find a way in which disputes cannot only be
settled, but settled permanently."
Ironically, a 1980s U.S.-Canada spat over softwood lumber gave impetus
the creation of the free-trade agreement between the two countries near
end of the decade, an accord that was the predecessor of NAFTA.
Trade consultant Peter Clark said that Canada tried -- and failed --
negotiations to get provisions that allow panel decisions to supplant
"We didn't get it in '88. We certainly didn't get it in NAFTA," said
Clark, president of Grey Clark Shih and Associates, an international
Mr. Clark said success on Mr. Martin's part now would be a "very
change" for NAFTA as it affects Canada, noting that the fact that the
Minister spoke out on the issue on his first international trip since
election demonstrates that the matter will be a priority for the
But he cautioned that there are two imposing impediments. The first is
necessity of changing U.S. trade law with NAFTA. The second is the
of the U.S. presidential election, where the Democrats are at least as
protectionist as the current administration, Mr. Clark said.
Before his speech, Mr. Martin said he would address trade issues and
security concerns -- particularly the need for Canada and other
help rebuild institutions in failing states.
During his remarks, he said "an enormous international effort" is
"And it is one, to be quite honest, which I don't think that we as
have begun to face up to," he said, according to the transcript.
Despite the fact that media executives made up a big part of his
Mr. Martin's prepared remarks did not dwell on issues such as
Canadian-content rules or foreign-ownership restrictions in
But in questions from U.S. reporters about the restrictions, he said
cultural industries are "manifestations of sovereignty," while pointing
that current rules have not prevented U.S. broadcasters from selling