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David Emerson is chair and Jeff Zweig is president and CEO of TimberWest Forest Products.

With another round of contentious softwood-lumber negotiations between Canada and the United States looming, it's more important than ever that the Government of Canada bring forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement for parliamentary approval as quickly as possible.

We are encouraged that the TPP has been on high on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's agenda in his initial conversations with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The TPP includes 12 countries and gives Canadian businesses preferred and improved access to a combined market of about 800 million people and more than $28-trillion in economic activity.

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British Columbia's forest industry continues to be the engine of the province's economy as its largest exporter, with logs, lumber, pulp, paper and other products totalling more than $12-billion in exports from B.C. in 2014.

If Parliament approves the TPP, B.C.'s forest companies, forest communities (40 per cent of the province's regional economies depend on forestry) and the 145,000 men and women who work directly or indirectly in the industry (one in 16 B.C. jobs are tied to forestry) will benefit from the removal of tariffs in several key TPP markets, including:

  • Tariffs of up to 6 per cent in Japan on lumber and up to 10 per cent on plywood and veneer
  • Malaysian tariffs as high as 40 per cent on plywood and veneer and up to 20 per cent on joinery and carpenter’s products
  • Vietnamese tariffs as high as 25 per cent on newsprint and up to 24 per cent on carton boxes and packing containers.

Other products, from oriented strand board to paper products, face a range of similar tariffs in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Brunei.

Removing these tariffs and "levelling the playing field" for Canadian forest products is nothing but good news for our province, its workers and its communities.

The TPP will allow British Columbia to open more markets and send more products to countries such as Japan, where we have already been a reliable and valuable supplier for decades, but where the current tariffs have made it challenging for us to grow sales.

The global forest-products market is intensely competitive, and any boost we can get helps B.C.'s forest communities. Some of our keenest international competitors are not signatories to TPP; they will face tariffs and penalties that we will soon avoid.

Once Parliament approves the TPP, Canada will have free-trade agreements with 51 countries, representing 60 per cent of the global economy. And Canada will be the only country with free-trade access to the United States, Europe and the growing Asia-Pacific market.

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Other B.C. and Canadian industries, from agriculture to technology, will benefit in their own way as tariffs are reduced, or removed.

Canadian consumers will also benefit from increased product choice in dozens of categories, which will now be able to enter Canadian stores more freely.

We recognize that Canada's new government faces many important issues and difficult decisions ahead. But TPP approval will benefit thousands of British Columbians from Cranbrook to Duncan, from Prince George to Vancouver for years to come. It's time to get it done.

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