TORONTO — Jim Peterson, Canada’s former minister of international trade, has been named as chief negotiator to represent Ontario's interests in the ongoing softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the United States.
The appointment of a negotiator builds on the Ontario government's efforts to protect lumber producers and workers in the sector, states a release issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The forestry industry supports approximately 172,000 jobs in communities across Ontario and generates more than $15.5 billion in annual revenue.
As chief negotiator, Peterson will play a key role in the ongoing discussions with the U.S., federal and other provincial governments. His experience with the previous softwood negotiations will enable him to effectively represent the interests of the province and its forestry sector, adds the release.
Peterson was part of the negotiations on the previous Softwood IV lumber agreement which expired on Oct. 12, 2015, and the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated a new trade investigation on Dec. 15, 2016.
According to the release, Ontario, along with Quebec, is calling on the federal government for support for individuals and communities that would be impacted by U.S. actions in the softwood lumber dispute, including a loan guarantee program for Canadian companies.
Ontario is one of the U.S.'s top customers, with more than 40 per cent of all Canada-U.S. trade coming from the province. Twenty states call Ontario their number one customer and eight more states call Ontario their second largest customer, the release indicates.
In a statement, Kathryn McGarry, minister of natural resources, said, "I'm pleased that Jim Peterson, with his wealth of experience, is joining Ontario's softwood negotiation team. As we continue to fight for fair trade practices with our U.S. neighbours, Jim will be a real asset to Ontario at the negotiation table."