Going to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon

by Yule Heibel on November 15, 2004

At least that’s what Sen. Max Baucus should consider — becoming a dental floss tycoon — because to judge by his ideas on international trade, he doesn’t seem fit to be a legislator. Baucus plans to introduce a bill in Congress as early as tomorrow [Tuesday 11/16] that would “give” $4 billion in lumber duties from Canadian companies to US forest companies. See this CBC story here. BC Forest Minister Mike de Jong is making big noises in response, but one wonders how, exactly, he and his Federal counterpart will make good on taking a firm stand against American unilateralism:

[De Jong] says one of the options [to fight the legislative theft proposed by Baucus] includes stopping energy exports to the U.S.,
“I’m just making the obvious point that if the U.S. Congress and the White House sanction the theft of this money, there will be Canadians across the country arguing it is time to make that linkage, and to other products as well.”

See Montana’s Billings Gazette for another report. Other sources claim that Baucus is just posturing and can safely be ignored, but here in Canada, the US is seen as an increasingly unreliable trade partner with no respect for existing treaties. So far, all international court decisions have come down in Canada’s favour, which seems to be fanning the flames of desperate and outrageous behaviour on the part of the Americans. Another CBC business news report, U.S. senator’s bill would give lumber duties to American companies by Steve Mertl, adds more background:

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection bureau is holding an estimated $3.6 billion in countervailing and anti-dumping duties collected since May 2002 after American producers claimed Canadian softwood lumber sold into the U.S. market was being subsidized.

The WTO ruled in January 2003 that the so-called Byrd Amendment to the Tariff Act, which distributed punitive tariffs to companies deemed to have been injured by subsidized imports, violated international trade rules.

Last September, the trade body gave Canada and other countries the right to impose retaliatory sanctions against American products after the U.S. government refused to repeal the Byrd Amendment.

[John] Allan [president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council] said it’s conceivable the Baucus bill, if it passes, could order U.S. Customs to turn over the duties held in trust. Otherwise, the money would come from U.S. government revenues.

Then if Canada ultimately wins the duty case, “that leaves the U.S. taxpayer on the hook,” said Allan. [More…]

Baucus, m’boy, you’re a bully. And since you’re not doing this for the American taxpayer, whose pocket are you in? Even the US press, when reporting favourably on the Byrd Amendment, notes that while anti-dumping fines previously went directly into the US Treasury, they now (via Byrd) go directly to private US companies. Interesting, isn’t it? Sounds like a “legal,” government-sactioned privatisation of international trade, with the taxpaying public (who cares about them anyway?) holding the bag in case the fines have to be given back to the fined after all. Do piggies need their teeth flossed? [ed.: I initially wrote “jim” instead of “max” for the senator’s name, and have corrected it. It’s Max Baucus, D-Montana. The entry title? Just a ref. to Frank Zappa’s Montana song, of course.]

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