Canada taking U.S. to WTO in complaint over trade remedies

Geneva | Reuters — Canada has launched a wide-ranging trade dispute against the United States, challenging Washington’s use of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, Canada said in a WTO filing dated Dec. 20 and published on Wednesday.

Canada appeared to be mounting a case on behalf of the rest of the world, since it cited almost 200 examples of alleged U.S. wrongdoing, almost all of them concerning other trading partners, such as China, India, Brazil and the European Union.

The 32-page complaint homed in on technical details of the U.S. trade rulebook, ranging from the U.S. treatment of export controls to the use of retroactive duties and split decisions by the six-member U.S. International Trade Commission.

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Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the legal action was in response to the “unfair and unwarranted” U.S. duties against Canada’s softwood lumber producers and part of a “broader litigation” to defend forestry jobs.

“We continue to engage our American counterparts to encourage them to come to a durable negotiated agreement on softwood lumber,” she said in an emailed statement.

Canada said U.S. procedures broke the WTO’s Anti-Dumping Agreement, the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes.

Anti-dumping and countervailing duties — punitive tariffs to restrict imports that are unfairly priced or subsidized in order to beat the competition — are a core component of Washington’s trade arsenal, and frequently used to defend U.S. interests.

Such tariffs are allowed under WTO rules but they are subject to strict conditions.

The U.S. has been under fire for years about the way it calculates unfair pricing, or dumping. It has already lost a string of WTO disputes after its calculation methodology was ruled to be out of line with the WTO rulebook.

Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. 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.”

Trump has also upset Canada by slapping punitive tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber exports, leading to a challenge by Ottawa at the WTO and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday described Canada’s new dispute as a “broad and ill-advised attack on the U.S. trade remedies system.”

Canada’s claims “are unfounded and could only lower U.S. confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade,” he added in a statement issued in Washington.

Reporting for Reuters by Tom Miles; additional reporting by Tim Ahmann.

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