What's the strategy — Canada's WTO broadside

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC Feb. 13 2017

The 32-page complaint challenges Washington's use of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The announcement of the case comes ahead of the January 23 start of the next round of trade talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement in Montreal.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has dismissed the complaint, saying "Canada's claims are unfounded and could only lower U.S. confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade".

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.

The complaint is substantial in magnitude.

But by listing almost all trade enforcement actions by the Trump administration, the Canadian complaint also supports dozens of countries affected by the recent imposition of both preliminary and permanent USA duties.

"These rates tabled lby the US on uncoated groundwood paper represent the third action that stands to hurt hard working men and women in our mill communities across Canada", says Derek Nighbor, CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada. "Canada and the USA share a longstanding and important relationship, but in the face of these unfounded trade actions it's important that our government defends Canada's interests". There are 122 instances involving various countries listed in the WTO filing, which dates to December.

Lighthizer questioned why Canada filed so many complaints that included other countries.


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

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. "We lose the lawsuits, nearly all of the lawsuits in the WTO". Sands, who said the move may have come because Canadian trade negotiators and politicians believe the strategy of playing nice with the Trump administration has not paid dividends. Canada's claims threaten the ability of all countries to defend their workers against unfair trade.

"If Canada loses Chapter 19, it would have to go to the WTO", said Warner.

Canada has had it up to here with the United States and its trade remedy measures.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull out of NAFTA - or at least trigger the withdrawal process to increase pressure on Canada and Mexico.

With its WTO filing, Canada is forcing the United States to put its logic to the test. Canada is bracing for the possibility Mr. Trump will trigger a withdrawal in the coming weeks.

Ideally, Canada would want to keep both chapter 19 and the United States' commitment to the WTO, since it gives it more ammunition in disputes.

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