British Columbia

B.C. optimistic for softwood lumber deal with Trump presidency

Premier Christy Clark is optimistic a softwood lumber deal can be negotiated with a Donald Trump presidency.

Premier Christy Clark says softwood lumber not main concern for president-elect Trump

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she looks forward to working with president-elect Donald Trump. (CBC News)

Despite the U.S. president-elect's vocal disdain for trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), B.C. Premier Christy Clark is optimistic a softwood lumber deal can still be negotiated with a Donald Trump presidency. 

"There are still a lot of free traders in the United States who know that free trade for Canada has been great for their economy too. It has created thousands and thousands of jobs in B.C. and Canada and it has done the same on the other side of the border," said Clark.

Softwood lumber not main concern for Trump 

Softwood lumber is British Columbia's largest export south of the border. Canada exported $3.31 billion of softwood lumber to the United States in 2015. The U.S.-Canada softwood lumber deal signed in 2006 expired last year, and negotiations have been ongoing since

Clark said she has not seen any change of focus at the softwood lumber negotiating table, despite Tuesday's astonishing election victory for Trump.

"I have never heard him talk about softwood lumber particularly. The softwood lumber is vital for British Columbia and not really central to most of the American economic interest," added Clark. 

"The good news now is we have stability. We have a candidate chosen. We have a senate and a house of representatives that has been chosen."

The Canadian government has been negotiating with the United States since the softwood lumber deal ended in 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Future of NAFTA

While softwood lumber may not be one of Trump's top priorities, renegotiating NAFTA does seem to be. Canada's ambassador to the United States said Wednesday, the Liberal government would be "happy" to talk about improvements to NAFTA with president-elect Donald Trump's team.

"What Trump seems to legally be able to do is announce that the U.S. will abrogate NAFTA and he could do that with 6 months notice," said Sauder School of Business trade expert Keith Head. 

Head said what would happen then, is that B.C. exporters would pay tariffs in the 5 to 10 per cent range on goods both imported and exported to the United States.

But he believes B.C. would be less affected than Ontario, which focuses on manufactured goods, because tariffs are smaller on raw products like unwrought zinc and salmon. 

'Don't get dispirited': Clark to young women 

Premier Clark, meanwhile, also used Trump's victory as an opportunity to congratulate Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as the first woman to be nominated as a presidential candidate for a major party in the U.S.

The premier's message to young women and girls in this province, though, is that there is plenty of inspiration here at home, considering B.C. has a female attorney general, environment minister, jobs minister and premier. 

"I would say to young women if you want to be successful as a woman in British Columbia the examples are abound," said Clark. "I would also say to young women, don't get dispirited. If we don't end up with more women around the table we will never change the outcome," said Clark.