Canada files WTO complaint over United States trade practices

Marie Harrington
January 14, 2018

By filing a WTO complaint over USA use of punitive duties, and charging that the U.S.is in violation of worldwide trade rules, not just in its dealings with us but other countries such as China, "Canada is taking a run against the entire USA trade regime", says John Boscariol, a trade lawyer with McCarthy Tétrault.

If these countries can defend and promote their own interests, why shouldn't Canada?

"For example, if the USA removed the orders listed in Canada's complaint, the flood of imports from China and other countries would negatively impact billions of dollars in Canadian exports to the United States, including almost $9 billion in exports of steel and aluminum products and more than $2.5 billion in exports of wood and paper products". "Even if Canada succeeded on these groundless claims, other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada", he said.

Anti-dumping and countervailing duties - punitive tariffs to restrict imports that are unfairly priced or subsidised in order to beat the competition - are a core component of Washington's trade arsenal, and frequently used to defend US interests.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the WTO challenge is about the long-simmering trade dispute with the US over softwood lumber and is entirely separate from the NAFTA talks.

"Canada's claims are unfounded and could only lower US confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade", Lighthizer said in a statement. "It's nearly like Canada is fighting this on behalf of the worldwide community ..."

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Canada's complaint comes as its efforts continue to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Under WTO dispute resolution rules, other countries named in the complaint can decide to take part in consultations after an initial reading.

She says Canada will bring some new, "creative" ideas to the sixth round of NAFTA negotiations later this month in Montreal, in response to some of the "more unconventional" US proposals. "We're about the start negotiations over NAFTA in Montreal". We know that when unbiased entities review these unfair trade practices, they have found in Canada's favour.

"In a normal situation you wouldn't expect this to impact the long-term trading relationship that we've got under NAFTA", he said.

Canadian newsprint joined softwood lumber as the latest commodity to incur US import duties, with up to 9 percent levied on various companies. The U.S. imports about $1.6 billion a year in Canadian newsprint. "But with the Trump administration being relatively new, and because of the protectionist noises we've been hearing from them, it's not at all clear what sort of reaction the USA might have".

"This has been a chronic problem for us", he said.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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