Canada files WTO complaint over U.S. trade practices

Kevin Dietsch  SIPA  Newscom

WASHINGTON-Canada has launched a wide-ranging attack against American trade practices in a broad worldwide complaint over that country's use of punitive duties-a move the United States is calling "broad and ill-advised". And yesterday, a day after the paper tariffs were announced, a complaint against the USA that the Canadians had lodged with the World Trade Organization was made public.

On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that Washington would impose countervailing duties of between 6 and 10 percent on uncoated groundwood Canadian paper.

"We continue to engage our American counterparts to encourage them to come to a durable negotiated agreement on softwood lumber", Freeland told Reuters.

Canada lodged a World Trade Organization complaint accusing the USA of regularly breaching global trade laws through various countervailing and anti-dumping duties, citing almost 200 examples spanning several decades.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer issued a rebuttal calling Canada's case an "ill-advised attack on the USA trade remedies system". 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.

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

In the 32-page complaint, Canada detailed areas where they argue that the United States' tariff investigations and reviews have been inconsistent with its obligations under several WTO agreements. "In the past Canada has filed one-off cases in relation to a specific product or dispute such as softwood lumber".

"If Canada loses Chapter 19, it would have to go to the WTO", said Warner. "It's nearly like Canada is fighting this on behalf of the worldwide community. I wonder why would you bring this complaint now".

Such tariffs are allowed under WTO rules, but are subject to strict conditions. It has already lost a string of WTO disputes after its calculation methodology was ruled to be out of line with the WTO rulebook.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland indicated that the step was a necessary response to the earlier softwood lumber dispute, though, the document attacks the entire United States system, not just the decisions on softwood lumber.

Given recent musings that Ottawa expects the Trump administration is about to pull the plug on NAFTA, there is speculation that Canada is either trying to gain leverage ahead of the next round of negotiations, or signaling that, with no free trade agreement in place, it intends to use the WTO to fight its trade battles.

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