Canada files nearly 200 trade complaints against US

By Barry Ellsworth

Canada has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) amid a dispute with the U.S., a day after its newsprint became the latest product to be slapped with import duties by Washington.

Details of the WTO filing released Wednesday referenced nearly 200 instances Canada claims the Americans breeched global trade rules by imposing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties.

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

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 Jan. 23 in Montreal.

The filing also complained about U.S. treatment of export controls as well as the imposition of retroactive tariffs.

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.

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”.

Lighthizer questioned why Canada filed so many complaints that included other countries. There are 122 instances involving various countries listed in the WTO filing, which dates to December.

“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.”

Lighthizer also issued a cloaked warning that may be aimed at continued NAFTA talks.

“Canada’s claims are unfounded and could only lower U.S. confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade,” he said.

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

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.

Canadian officials did not make an announcement with the release of the WTO filing but did respond to the newsprint duties. The U.S. imports about $1.6 billion a year in Canadian newsprint. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of newsprint.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr called the duties “unjustified” and said the move would hurt Americans.

“Any duties will have a direct and negative impact on U.S. newspapers, especially those in small cities and towns, and result in job losses in the American printing sector,” the ministers said in a joint release.

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