'Canada's WTO complaint against U.S. could scuttle NAFTA'


The file was made public on Wednesday and cites almost 200 complaints by Canada against the US, many of which include Canada's trading partners such as China, India, Brazil, and the European Union. Even if Canada succeeded with their claims, other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada, Lighthizer argued.

He further called Canada's accusations "unfounded" and said that they "could only lower USA confidence" that its neighbor is committed to mutually beneficial trade.

"Remedies ensure that trade is fair by counteracting dumping or subsidies that are injuring US workers, farmers, and manufacturers".

The complaint marks Canada's most exhaustive attempt yet to counter recent import duties imposed by the US, particularly on Canadian softwood lumber products.

Publication of the complaint came just hours after the U.S. Commerce Department placed preliminary duties on Canadian exports of uncoated groundwood paper, which is used to manufacture newspapers, soft-cover books and phone directories.

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 USA interests.

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.

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It's possible other countries may join this complaint as intervenors, making it a bigger and more embarrassing problem for the US government.

Canada has "thrown a grenade" at the United States filing a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against its southern neighbour's use of trade sanctions, which might wreck their current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, said an worldwide trade law expert.

They fear that it could ultimately prompt United States President Donald Trump to invoke NAFTA's article 2205, notifying partners of intent to withdraw from the pact after a period of six months. But he questioned the strategic logic of antagonizing the Trump administration in the midst of NAFTA talks.

The irony here is that Canada is making the same complaint about the United States. The filing has potentially strengthened Canada's hand in the NAFTA renegotiations, all the while putting pressure on the U.S.in the softwood lumber dispute, among others.

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

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

Mr. Bown said aggressively taking on the United States at the WTO is also something of an insurance policy for Canada: If NAFTA is torn up, or if the revised deal guts its dispute-settlement mechanisms - which the United States has proposed - Ottawa will have to rely on the WTO to pursue Washington.