What's the strategy — Canada's WTO broadside

"For decades, the Canadian lumber industry has been subject to unfair and unwarranted duties imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and has filed appeals under the NAFTA and WTO agreements", said Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council. Even if Canada succeeded with their claims, other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada, Lighthizer argued.

On Wednesday, the Canadian government announced it had submitted a request for consultations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge the United States' countervailing and anti-dumping duties. "Canada's claims are unfounded and could only lower USA confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade".

Canada claims the U.S.is guilty of breaking three basic WTO rules: the anti-dumping agreement, another on subsidies and a third on understanding the settlement of disputes mechanism.

The file was made public on Wednesday and cites almost 200 complaints by Canada against the USA, many of which include Canada's trading partners such as China, India, Brazil, and the European Union.

Trade lawyer Mark Warner said Canada may have some merit to its case, but he questioned the timing as the latest round of NAFTA negotiations are due to be held in Montreal later this month. The association applauded the efforts of Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators, and the publishers of over one thousand small and medium-sized U.S. newspapers who have demanded that Washington not impose countervailing and anti-dumping duties on Canadian newsprint. "It's nearly like Canada is fighting this on behalf of the global community".

"Canada is acting against its own workers' and businesses' interests".

The U.S. used the same argument it did in imposing stiff duties against softwood lumber: that the Canadian companies received unfair subsidies from the Canadian government.

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The complaint is "certainly not typical", said Greg Kanargelidis, an worldwide trade lawyer at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.

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

The highly technical 32-page complaint lists 122 trade enforcement actions undertaken by the Trump administration, dealing with imports ranging from Chinese steel to pasta made in Italy.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the legal action was in response to "unfair and unwarranted" U.S. duties against Canada's softwood lumber producers, and is part of a "broader litigation" to defend its forestry jobs.

Anticipating an imminent US retreat from NAFTA, the Canadian government has chose to go on the offensive in managing its trade relations with our Southern neighbor. "It's the same horror show over and over".

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

  • Sonia Alvarado