Canada's WTO broadside: What's the strategy ?

Trevor Jackson
January 14, 2018

Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Mark Warner said the complaints might have some merit, and Canada is well within its rights to complain to the WTO.

He said that during the current NAFTA negotiations, which enter the sixth round in Canada later this month, the U.S. has made it clear that it wants to remove a dispute-resolution mechanism for anti-dumping and countervailing cases under Chapter 19 of the 24-year-old trilateral trade agreement.

Canada said US procedures broke the WTO's Anti-Dumping Agreement, the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes.

The 32-page filing not only accuses the USA of improperly imposing duties on Canadian products but also on those of other trading partners, including Brazil, China, EU and India.

Washington was quick to respond, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer issuing a statement Wednesday that called the filing a "broad and ill-advised attack on the U.S. trade remedies system".

The WTO filing comes less than two weeks before the sixth round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation talks between the two countries and Mexico resume January 23 in Montreal.

"Canada is acting against its own workers' and businesses' interests", he said. "Even if Canada succeeded on these groundless claims, other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada", he said.

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" USA proposals. "It's nearly like Canada is fighting this on behalf of the worldwide community ..."

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The confusion over Canadian expectations comes ahead of the next round of negotiations, scheduled to be held in Montreal Jan. 23-28.

"We know that when unbiased entities review these unfair trade practices, they have found in Canada's favour", Yurkovich said in a statement.

A massive question is left unanswered: why did Canada file this request at the WTO while the NAFTA renegotiations are underway (and nothing short of arduous)? Canada cites 188 examples of USA trade remedies in its claims, but only a handful involve US trade action against Canada and another 33 countries are mentioned.

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

Indeed, the Trump administration wasted no time expressing its displeasure.

Canadian newsprint joined softwood lumber as the latest commodity to incur USA import duties, with up to 9 percent levied on various companies.

Anticipating an imminent USA retreat from NAFTA, the Canadian government has made a decision to go on the offensive in managing its trade relations with our Southern neighbor.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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