There is something radically wrong with Softwood Lumber Agreement

By on May 15, 2017

Dear Editor:

That there is, and was, something radically wrong with the Softwood Lumber Agreement between the United States and Canada, is beyond the shadow of a doubt.

There are more skeletons in that huge closet (or even attic) called “free trade.” One particular apparition that continues to haunt me personally is the issue of Chapter 16 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in which professionals (who are citizens) of any of the three amigo countries (Canada, Mexico and the United States) can work in the other two.

I did that for six years and continue to suffer from what I have called the “inappropriate hiring and fraudulent visaing” practices, initially done “in innocence” and afterwards  completely “in denial and in vehement opposition”, when I discovered them after four or five years in the United States working and enjoying myself professionally.

Under provisions in Chapter 16, I was not eligible to be hired by a state agency.

Why?

A state agency is not a “U.S. entity”.  It is a “government agency” by definition.  The NAFTA is only a trade treaty – it is not an employment treaty nor an immigration treaty at all.

However,  I was somehow hired and the U.S. federal customs guards gave me and my wife Visas, based on a letter from a person working in a state agency (who was to become my supervisor).

This letter had been written and sent to me without the involvement or scrutiny or even knowledge of their human resources department.

Yet it was considered valid as their letter of support (in fact, it was the actual application) when the customs guard, in early 2002, gave us our (first) one-year Visas to myself and my wife.

This continued for three years without anybody knowing that this was wrong.  Then my supervisor retired and for my fourth “letter of support”, his successor took the matter to the human resources department.

Can you fathom why the matter was then first hushed and later covered up?

When I started to ask questions, I was even threatened.

You see, the individual states are not “signatories” to the NAFTA. Just because they do not do any “trade”, they only “govern.”

That’s where the problem lies with the softwood lumber issue.

Unfortunately, it appears to me that softwood lumber is also an internal Canadian problem, between the provinces – which are even not “signatories.”

We all know that British Columbia already suffered a lot about a decade ago when it lost significantly during the court process.

Guess what?

For Chapter 16 of the NAFTA, there is not even a proper conflict resolution mechanism.

I got nowhere with my complaints and we eventually returned to Canada, with some substantial (and ongoing) financial woes.

Jacob A. de Raadt

Osoyoos, B.C.

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