Currently, Canada is negotiating trade agreements with Japan on two fronts: through the US-backed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and directly for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The TPP in particular is moving quickly as Japan and the US have recently stated their commitment to complete a deal by next year. The Canadian Embassy has been very proactive in getting the Canada Wood partners involved in the consultations and I have thus had the opportunity to speak with the negotiating team about issues of importance to the value-added industry.
This is a very positive step as traditionally only the interests of the major lumber producers were brought to the table of such important discussions. The negotiators were very surprised about how many issues the value-added industry faced: F****, the new JAS CLT standard, JIS standards for metal connectors in house/building packages, window/door fire testing, JAS standards for glulam, prefectural procurement policies that require domestic/prefectural wood, inconsistent treatment of value-added products by port/inspector, tariffs on value-added products, and of course the new Wood Points System. Through our discussions I was told that the barriers against “value-added” products is not limited to the forest industry. Generally raw/basic materials have been accepted in Japan because of a lack of natural resources, but there is more discrimination and harassment the further up the value-added chain you go with any product category. I was happy to hear that the Canadian negotiators were aware of this and interested in taking on this battle. Hopefully, with two venues to air our grievances, we can get better terms for all Canadian wood products entering the Japanese market.
Having said that, such negotiations are of course about trade-offs between different industries. The industries that the Canadian government deems the most important will have the strongest political backing and others will be used as bargaining chips to be given away. This is why it is more important than ever for the Canadian wood products industry to stand-up and make its voice heard in Ottawa. We need everyone to know that the forest industry is still and will long remain a crucial driver of the Canadian economy so its interests must be fought for. This is especially true in the case of trade with Japan as wood is on of our main export products to this market.
As the Canadian negotiating team continues to collect information on discriminatory practices against our wood products, I encourage any members who have had such issues in Japan to contact me with their cases. I will also be available at the GBM to talk about such issues.