Canada takes softwood lumber dispute with United States to NAFTA appeal panel

Canada files lumber trade challenge against US

Canada has requested that its trade dispute with Washington over U.S. duties imposed on softwood lumber go to arbitration under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules.

Canada said it is requesting the panel under NAFTA's Chapter 19, which deals with reviews and dispute resolution related to countervailing and anti-dumping duties.

The Canadian government is keen on having the binational panel examine the lumber dispute because in the past, Canada has emerged victorious when appealing its case through NAFTA in the long-running trade battle.

The U.S. alleges Canada unfairly subsidizes its softwood industry and sells wood in the United States at unfair rates, which Canada vigorously denies.

Among other things, the Trump administration wants to eliminate NAFTA's arbitration process.

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Ironically, Canada filed the challenge under the NAFTA Chapter 19 dispute mechanism and in the renegotiations underway to cut a new NAFTA deal between Canada, the US and Mexico, the USA wants to eliminate Chapter 19.

The Commerce Department imposed the countervailing duty as a punitive measure against what the USA sees as subsidized Canadian lumber while the anti-dumping duty is for selling softwood below market value.

"We will forcefully defend Canada's softwood lumber industry, including through litigation, which we are launching today", Canada's foreign ministry said in a statement. If the ITC finds that USA producers were not injured by Canadian softwood imports, the Commerce Department's case will be terminated.

The Commerce Department's determination must still be approved by the U.S. International Trade Commission, which is scheduled to make its final determinations by December 18, 2017.

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