In the House of Commons, Mr. Martin — responding to suggestions from the Opposition that the government's position was softening — again insisted Canada won't negotiate with the United States on the NAFTA decision."We will not negotiate a win," he said. "NAFTA will be respected."
Martin has made exactly the correct response, both diplomatically and politically to the obstinance of the US in obeying recongized trade and international law on softwood lumber.
Martin's clever political move was to suggest that if NAFTA isn't obeyed Canada would seek to trade it's energy surpluses with other nations like, say...China. A move that certainly got the attention of the US, which has been content to dicker over this rather than swallow their pride and obey the rules they agreed to.
The first of his diplomatic moves was to correctly ignore the requests of the US for a 'negotiated settlement' - i.e. the 'we'll agree you are right, but don't want to pay you what we clearly owe' move we've been getting from our esteemed US representative to Canada. Kudos for recognizing that we have the upper hand, and that we should not place ourselves into negotiations on something that should be every right already belong to us (the aprox. $4.5B in revenues illegally collected by the US on Canadian imports).
The second solid diplomacy move was Martin's insistence that the ball is firmly in the US court to play, and that if they are serious about resolving the dispute they need to face up to their responsibilities and give a hard indication that they will obey the law moving forward.
Not coincidentally the US is just about due to ratify the illegal tax they have placed on our lumber - so Martin's diplomatic message is really an unequivocal - 'You say you want to obey NAFTA, well, put up or shut up and drop the tax moving forward - then we can talk'.
The US is clearly caught between a rock (the rule of law, and the fact they lost on every round of the dispute in NAFTA's own dispute mechanisms) and a hard place (the US lumber industry which funnells money into GOP coffers to enshrine exactly this kind of protectionism).
Are they feeling the squeeze? Definitely. Rice wouldn't be here if they weren't.
Is Martin winning? Yes he is, and with no small amount of elan either.