Canada appeared to be mounting a case on behalf of the rest of the world, since it cited nearly 200 examples of alleged USA wrongdoing, nearly all of them concerning other trading partners, such as China, India, Brazil and the European Union. What started as tariffs on lumber products has blown up into a vast relitigation of trade disputes going back two decades.
Canada lodged a World Trade Organization complaint accusing the USA of regularly breaching global trade laws through various countervailing and anti-dumping duties, citing almost 200 examples spanning several decades.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, seen here December 11, called Canada's request on Wednesday "a broad and ill-advised attack on the U.S. trade remedies system".
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.
"Canada's claims threaten the ability of all countries to defend their workers against unfair trade", he said.
"Even if Canada succeeded on these groundless claims, other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada". Canada cites 188 examples of USA trade remedies in its claims, but only a handful involve US trade action against Canada and another 33 countries are mentioned.
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"These rates tabled lby the US on uncoated groundwood paper represent the third action that stands to hurt hard working men and women in our mill communities across Canada", says Derek Nighbor, CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada. The Canadian government is preparing for the possibility that Trump will withdraw from NAFTA, senior officials say, though they aren't entirely convinced that he will.
Under WTO dispute resolution rules, other countries named in the complaint can decide to take part in consultations after an initial reading. The negotiations certainly aren't unfamiliar with shows of muscle or grandstanding; think of the Trump administration's outrageous NAFTA demands, the threat to leave NAFTA, the softwood lumber dispute, the Boeing-Bombardier dispute and most recently, the newspaper dispute. It follows a series of similar penalties as the U.S. alleges unfair trade practices by Canada in the form of softwood lumber and Bombardier subsidies.
Canadian newsprint joined softwood lumber as the latest commodity to incur US import duties, with up to 9 percent levied on various companies.
Indeed, the Trump administration wasted no time expressing its displeasure.
Steep import duties leveled by the US have become a regular fixture of the industry, according to Joel Neuheimer, a vice-president at the Forest Products Association of Canada.