Friday, March 15, 2002
"This is a fantastic piece of news," said the Spanish foreign minister, Josep Pique. "This is the only way to guarantee the future of Serbia and Montenegro, and the whole region."
Mr Pique pledged the EU would "throw all its weight" to help the new federation.
No doubt this crucial EU action will be every bit as effective as its actions during the last decade's Balkan wars.
And in other earth-shaking news, EU leaders are "expected to urge Israel to pull all its forces out of the Palestinian territories immediately and to respect the rights of Palestinian refugees."
"The draft statement recognises Israel's right to fight terrorism but urges it to withdraw all its forces from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority," a diplomat told the Reuters news agency.
So Israel can fight terrorism, in the sense of fighting specific terrorists embarked on missions of mass murder within Israel. It's okay for an alert waiter in a Tel Aviv cafe to jump on a terrorist who is about to blow the cafe up, but anything more proactive will offend the EU's delicate sensibilities.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President George W. Bush met yesterday, beginning a week of softwood lumber talks between Canada and the United States. At stake is our sovereign right to manage our forest resources and protect Canadian jobs -- or selling our soul to appease a bunch of Georgia "peanut farmers" like former U.S. president and vocal critic Jimmy Carter.
One of the big issues in this dispute is the U.S. allegation that Canada charges below-market "stumpage fees" for the cutting of trees on public land. These fees are set by the government rather than set by any kind of market mechanism, and the U.S. argues they are too low, constituting a subsidy (they average about $8/cubic meter in B.C., vs. $43/cubic meter in Washington state). Canada argues that they are set to equal "replacement cost." In what seems to be rather turgid logic, Carney argues:
The third consensus is the need for a temporary vehicle or transition measure while Canadian provinces change their forest policies to accommodate American demands, among others, for "market pricing" of wood from Canada's publicly owned forests. This is a specious demand, since U.S. and Canadian forest tenures are like apples and oranges. Those Georgia peanut farmers produce pine lumber from privately owned lands. Only 5 per cent of U.S. forests are publicly owned, a figure roughly comparable to the Maritimes. But in B.C., that figure rises to 95 per cent.
What? Carney seems to be saying that complaining about administratively-set stumpage fees is less acceptable the more that B.C. loggers rely on low-stumpage-fee public land. This is akin to saying that Canadian businesses shouldn't complain about cheap products from countries that rely on unpaid prison labor because...well...because those cheap products are made by forced prison labor while Canadian products aren't, and hence we're talking about apples and oranges.
And why should stumpage fees be set at replacement cost rather than market value anyway? Right now, B.C. loggers are fighting a plan that would see the province auction off 13% of its harvest, and set stumpage fees according to the results of that auction:
"Many of the chief executives have concerns about how it might work and how it would affect their economics," said John Allan, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council, which represents the majority of producers in the province.
I'll bet they have concerns. It's much nicer to have the taxpayers -- the owners of the public land -- forego millions of dollars in revenue associated with logging on their land.
The FCC auctions spectrum. Many government departments auction licenses. Why should softwood lumber be any different?
Canada is cutting off direct bilateral aid to Zimbabwe and will refuse entry to President Robert Mugabe and his officials if they try to visit, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced yesterday as he came into line with other Western leaders in criticizing this week's Zimbabwean election.
Mr. Chrétien said he agrees with a blistering report by Commonwealth observers that says intimidation tactics by militant supporters of Mr. Mugabe created a climate of fear that made a fair vote impossible.
Better late than never. Of course, with Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya sending congratulatory "the people have spoken" messages to Mugabe, it's doubtful that the Commonwealth will be able to take any unified action.