US Trade Rep Blasts Canada WTO Complaint About US Duties

A mule truck moves a container in the Port of Miami in Miami   Thomson Reuters

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".

Under President Donald Trump, the United States has threatened to expand the use of punitive duties against China and has angered Beijing by refusing to accede to China's demand to be treated as any other "market economy".

Many experts have criticized the Canadian government for its timing.

The action comes amid disputes between the two countries over areas such as dairy, aircraft sales and lumber as well as efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Canada's new request for consultations at the WTO is a broad and ill-advised attack on the USA trade remedies system", Lighthizer said in a Wednesday statement.

The irony here is that Canada is making the same complaint about the United States.

Canada's complaint with the WTO is a request for consultation, which formally initiates a dispute in the WTO.

"It's (saying), 'The entire way in which the US - you - are conducting your anti-dumping, countervailing procedures, is wrong,"' said Chad Bown, a trade expert at Washington's Peterson Institute.

Put another way, Canada may be taking on the United States on behalf of the rest of the world, whether by default or construction.

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"Canada is acting against its own workers' and businesses' interests", he said. Trying to get as much as possible from the process by using all political and legal means available is simply part of the process.

The thinly veiled threat gives new rise to concerns for positive progress in the ongoing NAFTA renegotiations ahead of the next round of talks set for January 23 in Montreal.

However, Canada's strategy is "particularly unwise", Warner told Xinhua. "We're about the start negotiations over NAFTA in Montreal". Chapter 19 allows the parties to bypass the national judicial system to challenge countervailing and anti-dumping duties.

WASHINGTON-Canada has launched a wide-ranging attack against American trade practices in a broad global complaint over that country's use of punitive duties-a move the United States is calling "broad and ill-advised".

Across the negotiating table, the United States argues that chapter 19 is unnecessary because the WTO exists, (it did not when NAFTA came into force) and because the United States system is not biased in favour of USA firms.

"Canada considers the measures relating to US anti-dumping or countervailing duty investigations, reviews or other proceedings are inconsistent with USA obligations under the WTO's Anti-Dumping Agreement, the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 and the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes", the document's preamble states.

"Even if Canada succeeded on these groundless claims, other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada", he added, suggesting also that "Canada's complaint is bad for Canada".

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.

He said that during the current NAFTA negotiations, which enter the sixth round in Canada later this month, the U.S. has made it clear that it wants to remove a dispute-resolution mechanism for anti-dumping and countervailing cases under Chapter 19 of the 24-year-old trilateral trade agreement.

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