Trump’s trade chief lashes out after Canada broadens WTO fight

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government launched a wide-ranging World Trade Organization dispute with the U.S. over how it applies countervailing and anti-dumping duties. That drew a harshly worded response from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Canada is escalating its trade fight with President Donald Trump, mounting what the U.S. calls a “broad and ill-advised attack” just as NAFTA talks are set to resume.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government launched a wide-ranging World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with the U.S. over how it applies countervailing and anti-dumping duties. The paperwork was filed Dec. 20, days after a mini-round of North American Free Trade Agreement talks ended in Washington, D.C., and made public Wednesday.

It drew a harshly worded response from Trump’s trade czar. “Canada’s claims are unfounded and could only lower U.S. confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

The trade fight already affects plane-makers like Boeing and Bombardier; lumber producers like West Fraser Timber and Canfor; and auto companies whose supply chains rely on NAFTA, a pact whose fate is uncertain. Canada has launched WTO complaints over softwood and supercalendered paper, and criticized another round of duties applied in a spat over newsprint this week as “unjustified.”

The preliminary ruling on newsprint stems from a case brought by Longview, Wash.-based North Pacific Paper, known as Norpac, which said Canadian competitors relied on numerous subsidies to flood the U.S. market with less expensive paper.

Canada’s WTO claim cites U.S. measures against several of its biggest trading partners, including Canada itself, China, Germany, Japan and all but one of its fellow Group of 20 nations.

“It’s almost as if Canada is taking up the cause of the international trading system,” said Mark Warner, a Toronto-based trade lawyer with MAAW Law who practices in the U.S. and Canada. “It seems very aggressive.”

NAFTA talks resume in Montreal on Jan. 23.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is Trudeau’s lead minister on the file, met in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and several Republican senators who’ve voiced…

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