What's the strategy — Canada's WTO broadside


US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer commented on the move, saying that Canada's protest against recent US trade actions in a complaint to the WTO is "a broad and ill-advised attack on the US trade remedies system". "It's nearly like Canada is fighting this on behalf of the global community ..."

The 32-page complaint challenges Washington's use of anti-dumping and countervailing duties, arguing it goes against WTO rules.

Almost half the cases the Trudeau government is championing in its WTO filing are instances in which the United States has penalized shipments from China that it considers subsidized or dumped at below-cost prices.

He pointed out that the vast majority of cases Canada is complaining about don't even involve Canadian companies.

"Canada's claims are unfounded and could only lower USA confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade", he said.

"Canada's claims threaten the ability of all countries to defend their workers against unfair trade", he said.

Warner believes that the Canadian government may be playing to a domestic audience in demonstrating that it is not only being "very assertive" in addressing trade disputes, but that it is also trying to "embarrass the Americans" before the world by citing nearly 180 trade breaches over two decades against other countries listed on 24 pages of Canada's 32-page complaint before the WTO.

On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that Washington would impose countervailing duties of between 6 and 10 percent on uncoated groundwood Canadian paper.

"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 WTO said in a statement. Mr. Trump has complained the organization, which came into being because of US support, is biased against American interests.

The Canadian move is "bold for sure and slightly risky", said Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The filing has potentially strengthened Canada's hand in the NAFTA renegotiations, all the while putting pressure on the U.S.in the softwood lumber dispute, among others. 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.

Anticipating an imminent US retreat from NAFTA, the Canadian government has chose to go on the offensive in managing its trade relations with our Southern neighbor.

Canada's first motivation for going to the WTO is to show the Americans (and the rest of the world) that it will not cave in to its larger economic partners when they put undue pressure on Canadian economy and businesses.

Canada believes Mr. Trump's threat is serious: One source said Ottawa was ready for the President to pull the plug last fall and was surprised when the United States instead extended the negotiations to March.