Vive Le Canada

Rice to try calming the softwood furor on trip to Canada: U.S. officials
Date: Monday, October 24 2005

Rice to try calming the softwood furor on trip to Canada: U.S. officials
07:31 PM EDT Oct 22

WASHINGTON (CP) - Condoleezza Rice, making her first trip to Canada on Monday as U.S. secretary of state, will try to quell swirling tensions over the softwood lumber dispute and showcase co-operation on other fronts.

But U.S. government sources say they expect no breakthrough on the acrimonious softwood issue in a broad meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin that will touch on energy, security, progress on integrating the continent and global problems like the Iraq war.

Martin turned up the heat on softwood with a blunt call last week to President George W. Bush and has linked the impasse to other trade areas, including finding new markets like China for the Canadian oil that Americans need.

State Department officials insist no offence has been taken south of the border.

"The prime minister made Canada's position very clear and that's helpful," said a senior department official. "The ability to speak clearly is an important part of the relationship."

Rice cancelled a visit to Ottawa in April after Canada decided not to join the U.S. missile defence plan. Her visit now is designed to soothe anxieties while putting a positive spin on efforts to deepen Canada-U.S. relations.

That will be difficult since Canada has adopted the position that solving softwood is integral to moving forward in other areas, and the unresolved dispute is threatening future economic relations.

The trip is not about "damage control," said the American official, who didn't want to be named.

"The fact that she's going is important and it's positive. This is about reminding everyone about how important the relationship is. Our level of co-operation is profound," said the official, who noted there's been progress on the cattle trade and the Devils Lake water outlet opposed by Canada.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 25, 2005]

This article comes from Vive Le Canada

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