Energy and Resource Development
Special envoy on softwood lumber appointed12 May 2017
FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has appointed David Wilkins, former United States ambassador to Canada from 2005 to 2009, as New Brunswick’s special envoy on the softwood lumber issue.
“Robust trade between the United States and Canada creates jobs for both countries,” said Premier Brian Gallant. “Softwood lumber is an important product that New Brunswick businesses export and American families need. We must continue to communicate this to decision makers in the U.S., and that is exactly what Mr. Wilkins will help us do.”
Within 15 months of Wilkins becoming ambassador, a softwood lumber dispute between the two countries was resolved with the support of most of the Canadian lumber industry. His appointment as New Brunswick’s special envoy begins immediately. His responsibilities include: to assist with lobbying efforts on the softwood lumber issue, to promote New Brunswick business, trade and investment opportunities with the United States, and to provide the provincial government with advice on issues that could have an impact on New Brunswick's interests.
“It has always been evident to me that New Brunswick and the United States have a very strong and mutually beneficial trading relationship,” said Wilkins. “I am honoured to work in support of that relationship in Washington.”
Treasury Board President Roger Melanson, who is also the minister responsible for trade policy, has said that the government values its trade relationship with the United States and does not believe in creating barriers to trade when it comes to the export of softwood lumber products to the United States.
“Ambassador Wilkins brings a wealth of inside knowledge, expertise and strategic know-how to his role,” said Melanson. “We are fortunate to have him advocating for New Brunswick’s interests in Washington, not only on the softwood lumber file, but on investment, trade and economic development initiatives.”
“Forestry is a key player in the New Brunswick economy and employs many hard-working New Brunswickers,” said Energy and Resource Development Minister Rick Doucet. “The duty imposed is unfair, particularly to the employees, families and communities caught in the middle. I want those families to know that we will continue to bring that message forward at every opportunity, alongside our partners in the federal government.”
Deputy premier Stephen Horsman is currently in China as part of an economic and advocacy initiative, promoting New Brunswick’s softwood lumber industry to help businesses diversify.
The government recently announced actions aimed at protecting and promoting New Brunswick's forestry industry. These include calling for an immediate start to negotiations to ensure softwood lumber from the Maritimes is exempt from countervailing duties; leading trade missions to targeted growth markets in Europe and China to help businesses diversify; and today’s appointment of a special envoy on softwood lumber.
The government has set up a task force to address the softwood lumber issue. The task force, representing 11 government departments, aims to determine and mitigate the impact the preliminary decision by the United States could have on New Brunswick communities and families.
Gallant and other government representatives have been lobbying the federal and American governments in support of New Brunswick’s exclusion since 2014. The provincial government has made submissions to the United States Department of Commerce, demonstrating that New Brunswick has an open, fair and undistorted market for lumber. Melanson was in Boston in April, discussing the matter with officials of the Massachusetts state government, and did the same during an advocacy mission to Augusta, Maine, earlier that month.
The former United States ambassador to Canada (2005-2009), David Wilkins is a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP and chairs the Public Policy and International Law practice group with a special focus on U.S.-Canada interests. Wilkins was appointed ambassador by President George W. Bush. In addition to the softwood lumber dispute, Wilkins addressed several other issues, including the Northwest Passage, the North American Free Trade Agreement and Canada’s role in Afghanistan. Prior to being appointed ambassador, Wilkins served in the South Carolina house of representatives (1980-2005), chaired its judiciary committee (1986-1992) and was speaker pro tempore (1992-1994) and speaker (1994-2005).