OK

So, my Canadian colleague MikeCan1978 wrote a nice diary about how Condi Rice had to rush off this morning back to Washington, abruptly cancelling some interviews and raising speculation what exactly was going on. What he didnt mention was that before doing this, the aforementioned Ms. Rice got very peeved at some pesky Canadian media questioning her about the US's committment to treaties and signed agreements. I guess she isnt used to such media scrutiny from the Beltway Press Club back in D.C.
You see, Ms Rice feels the softwood lumber dispute is a rather trivial trade dispute compared to other great issues, and when the media took her to task over it, she didnt like it...

As background for those unfamiliar, Canada has won a series of NAFTA trade panel rulings that have ruled that Canada is not illegally dumping softwood lumber on the US market, and that 5 billion $ of duties the Americans have collected in tariffs should be repaid to Canada (I'll also mention these rulings were done with a majority of US judges on the panel listening to this case - the verdicts have been a unanimous 5-0 in Canada's favour).

The US in effect then told Canada it was ignoring the rulings and insisted on continued negotiations to break the impasse. Canada's government has withdrawn from talks and said there's nothing to negotiate over - we've won a ruling fair and square, and the ruling is part of a panel to a treaty that the US's signature is attached to. This led to the following testy exchange between the Canadian media and Rice at an interview:

...she dismissed the contentious softwood lumber issue as "a trade dispute," insisting that it should be settled through further negotiations.

Rice bristled when asked how the U.S. could be trusted when it doesn't live up to its international agreements.

"Well, I think the word of the United States has been as good as gold in its international dealings and its agreements," she snapped.

Rather touchy, Ms Rice.. and a lot of gall to saying you respect international agreements when you have several examples from your own press this morning which state otherwise.

Maybe its better that the US currently isnt a signatory to the International Criminal Court or Kyoto, or the effort to reduce landmines.... there sure isnt any indication they'd be able to stick to the treaties if they were signed on, when they cant even do it over a "petty trade dispute".

Reaction in Canada to Ms Rice's comments was rather swift, by the way. The centrist Globe and Mail paper - one usually read by a lot of those in the business community - immediately put up an online poll asking its readers whether they agreed with the Secretary's assertion that the "word of the US is as good as gold".

As of this morning, 12460 people have voted, and a resounding 91% of respondents have said that Condi and the Bush Admin is full of it

Okay, so its 'unscientific', but the readership of the G&M arent exactly known to be wild-eyed radicals.. nor do the G&M's polls get freeped. Heck, even Cabinet Ministers, normally very diplomatic when guests are here, couldnt resist scoffing at this:

International Trade Minister Jim Peterson responded with sarcasm to Rice's "good as gold" pledge on respecting international agreements.

"We've been off the gold standard for an awfully long time in this country," he said

Editorials in Canadas major dailes also agree that Rice is up the creek on this "good as gold" assertion.. from the Toronto Star this morning:

Ah, if only it were so. The sad truth is, U.S. President George Bush's credibility is in tatters. And not just on softwood. Washington's charming chief diplomat surely knows it. Americans are coming to believe Bush led them down the garden path into a war in Iraq that has taken 2,000 U.S. lives, cost $200 billion and fanned 9/11 fanaticism. And Canadians, most of whom never considered Bush credible on Iraq, scoff at the idea that Washington has a believable case on lumber. The North American Free Trade Agreement dispute resolution panels have ruled the U.S. is cheating us of $5 billion by imposing unfair duties.

The Star noted Rice came with a shopping list that the US wants Canada to do more on, while giving back nothing in return but nice words:

Bush wants Canada to do more in Iraq, beyond our $300 million in reconstruction aid. He wants our diplomatic support for his drive at the United Nations to punish Syria for meddling in Lebanon. He wants Canada to take on a bigger role in continental defence. And he is urging Ottawa to help dampen tension in the Middle East, Haiti and Sudan.

Rice also thanked Ottawa - a "generous, tested" ally - for sending troops to Afghanistan, for helping U.S. residents when Hurricane Katrina hit, and for co-operating on security issues. That is high praise for an ally who cannot seem to get the time of day for a trade complaint.

So, another mission accomplished for US and Bush diplomacy. Thanks for stopping by Condi. Sorry that home matters meant you had to cut your already brief visit short.

Originally posted to tribe34 on Wed Oct 26, 2005 at 08:33 AM PDT.

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