Canada US Trade; US press briefing
Date: Tuesday, October 18 2005
For your consideration; the link will send you to Whitehouse.gov for a press briefing transcript. The relevent bit is quoted below. Would be interesting to know who asked the questions.
October 14, 2005
Q Scott, the President spoke by telephone with the Canadian Prime Minister this morning. Can you comment on the substance of that discussion? And, more specifically, Paul Martin has been repeatedly making the point here in the United States that lumber tariffs on Canadian wood are adding $1,000 to the cost of every new home built in this country. Is the President concerned about that, and, if so, does he have any plans to do anything about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President and the Prime Minister had a good and candid discussion. It was a good discussion amongst friends. They talked about a number of issues. I talked about some of those earlier today with reporters. Hang on a second, John, if you don't mind. I talked about those issues earlier with reporters. They did talk about trade issues, and they talked about the softwood lumber issue. That was one topic that came up. The President reiterated our strong commitment to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The President, also, said that we both should get back to the negotiating table and work to find a solution that will be lasting. This is something that the President would like to resolve. I know it's something that Prime Minister Martin and the Canadian government wants to see resolved, as well. And they had a very good and candid discussion about that matter. Canada is our largest bilateral trading partner. And so if you put this in the overall perspective of things, I think when it comes to softwood lumber, it represents less than 3 percent of Canada's exports to the U.S. I think you have to look at the overall trading relationship that we have, and it's a good one and a strong one.
Q But the Prime Minister has released -- or his office has released verbatim whole chunks of his conversation to the President this morning in Canada, suggesting that the Prime Minister was very tough on the President, threatening to go to court, threatening to embarrass the President by going to the American consumers, and saying, look, you can get cheaper wood from Canada; why don't you do this? What is your perspective on the fact that verbatim quotes from the President have been released, and your perspective on --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I haven't seen that. I'd be interested to see that. But I do know that they had a good and candid discussion. They're friends, they talked very frankly about the concerns that they have. And the President said he believes we need to get back to the negotiating table and try to find a lasting solution. This is an issue that has gone on for some time, and we would like to see it resolved. And the President believes the way to do that is to get back to the table and negotiate and work to find a lasting solution.
Q The Canadian Prime Minister has been linking the issue with energy, musing that perhaps Canada could sell its oil exports to China or India rather than the United States, linking this issue --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's something that came up. They did talk about energy issues on the phone call, but that wasn't something that came up.
Q Well, what was that about --
MR. McCLELLAN: That wasn't something that came up on the phone call. They talked a little bit about ANWR, and the President talked about some of the energy that they have available, as well. They didn't talk about that.
Q There must be some concern, though, when the Prime Minister talks about situations of taking trade reprisals against the United States for the failure of this country to acknowledge the numbers of victories they've had before NAFTA. I appreciate that the relationship is strong and warm and fuzzy, if I may suggest, as you say. But there's no question --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's the way I described it. I said it's a good relationship. (Laughter.)
Q Well, allow me to --
MR. McCLELLAN: They are friends, and that's why they've been able to talk about these issues in a very candid way. It was a very direct conversation on these issues.
Q But when the Prime Minister then talks about trade retaliation, there must be some concern on the part of the White House that perhaps the issues are getting a bit out of --
MR. McCLELLAN: The Prime Minister expressed his concerns. The President also talked about his view -- and his view is that the way to get this resolved is to get back to the negotiating table and try to find a solution. And that's what he emphasized in the phone call. He also emphasized our commitment to the North American Free Trade Agreement. We believe it's been working well. We want to continue to work to make it even better and work better.
But there -- this is one issue in our overall trade relationship. And --
Q But on that point --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- remember, Canada has a fairly significant surplus when it comes to trade.
Q But simply on that issue of NAFTA, the Prime Minister today is saying that it isn't working well, that there have been a number of decisions that have favored Canada that have been ignored by the United States.
MR. McCLELLAN: This is one area where we have a dispute, and the President would like to see it resolved. The Prime Minister would like to see it resolved. We have some differences about how to go about that, but the President believes the way to do it is to get back to the negotiating table.
END 1:57 P.M. EDT