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What Does “Tweaking” NAFTA Mean for Importers and Exporters?

Posted by on Feb 16, 2017

The February 13, 2017 Washington meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau was a success with respect to trade relations between the two countries. Rather than taking an aggressive anti-NAFTA stance, as some had feared, President Trump noted that the United States has an “outstanding trade relationship with Canada” and stated that his goal was to “tweak” the NAFTA with regard to Canadian trade. The apparent result of the meeting was an implicit agreement to change the NAFTA in a way that increases the benefits for Canada and the United States; the best result that could be expected at this time. While this was a positive outcome, any change to NAFTA will result in winners and losers and more so if the simple tweak is not that simple. President Trump’s positive tone should not have come as a surprise. Although most Canadians tend to see Canada as the weak partner relative to the United States, available data shows that a healthy bilateral trade relationship has developed between Canada and the United States under NAFTA. Canadian officials point out that Canada – U.S. trade is worth approximately $2 billion per day and that Canada is the largest export market for 35 U.S. states. While this is impressive, it is more important to consider the U.S. perspective to gauge its view of the value of Canadian trade. Canada’s value as a trade partner can be gleaned from U.S. – Canada Trade Facts published by the U.S. Trade Representative, which reported that in 2015: Trade in goods between Canada and the U.S. was worth approximately USD $575 billion with Canada enjoying a USD $15 billion trade surplus. Although Canada was the United States’ second largest trade partner, it was the largest export market for U.S. goods with total exports to Canada worth approximately USD $280 billion. Although this was down approximately 10% over 2014 figures, total U.S. exports to Canada since NAFTA have increased 179% and account for approximately 18.5% of total U.S. exports. Trade in services between Canada and the United States was worth approximately USD $87.5 billion with the U.S. enjoying a USD $27.1 billion surplus. The value of...

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Consumer and Business Groups Now Can Have a Voice in the Gypsum Board Dumping Inquiry

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016

The dumping inquiry into Gypsum Board from the United States has just been complicated by a Cabinet Order directing the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (“CITT”) to consider whether anti-dumping duties will cause economic harm to Canada and Canadian gypsum board users. As a result of the Order, the CITT must now simultaneously conduct two separate inquiries into U.S. gypsum board imports. While this requirement will make the CITT process more difficult overall, it gives Canadian users and consumers an important voice at an early stage and represents a step forward for Canadian interests The anti-dumping inquiry started with a Complaint filed by a Canadian producer who claimed that imports of gypsum board from the United States into the Western Canadian market were dumped and caused or threatened cause material injury to domestic producers. The Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) accepted the Complaint as properly documented and began its dumping investigation. On September 21, 2016, the CBSA issued its Preliminary Determination which found dumping margins for cooperating exporters ranging from 105.2% to 143.6% and 276.5% for non-cooperating exporters. The Canadian International Trade Tribunal (“CITT”) conducted a Preliminary Injury Inquiry which concluded, on August 22, 2016, with a finding that the evidence disclosed a reasonable indication that U.S. gypsum has caused or threatened to cause injury to domestic producers in Canada. As a result of these findings, the CBSA is continuing its investigation and the CITT initiated an Injury Inquiry to determine whether U.S. gypsum board dumped into the Western Canadian market has actually caused or threatens to cause material injury to domestic producers. On October 13, 2016, the Federal Cabinet issued an Order directing the CITT to conduct a separate inquiry to determine whether imposing dumping duties on U.S. gypsum board exported to the Western Canadian market is contrary to Canada’s economic, trade or commercial interests. Specifically, the CITT is directed to determine whether imposing anti-dumping duties on U.S. gypsum imports would substantially reduce competition in the Western Canadian market or would cause significant harm to consumers and businesses that use gypsum. If the Preliminary Duties found by the CBSA are maintained through the CBSA’s Final Determination, it is hard...

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Woods LaFortune Submission in the SIMA Review

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016

The Department of Finance is currently conducting a review of the Special Import Measures Act (“SIMA”), the basis of Canada’s anti-dumping and countervailing duty system, and issued an Invitation to Interested Parties to submit their views on a “focused set of potential changes.” Although the SIMA review is intended to take all stakeholder interests into consideration, the issues raised in the Invitation focus on increased protection for domestic producers. For example, the Department has asked whether the current system provides sufficient protection to domestic producers and has proposed establishing scope and anti-circumvention inquiries and further restricting the CITT’s discretion to issue product exclusions; all of which will benefit domestic producers at the expense of other stakeholders. Periodic review of legislation is important, but legislation should only be amended when the amendments are necessary. In our view, amending SIMA to increase protection for domestic producers is questionable because they are well protected by the current system. That domestic producers benefit from the SIMA is clear from recent decisions which show that injury and threat of injury findings are made in the vast majority of cases, injury findings are generally extended following expiry reviews and the number of product exclusions granted is relatively low. Because domestic producers already receive more than sufficient protection from Canadian authorities, any additional protection is unnecessary and will raise trade barriers to the detriment of other stakeholders including other Canadian manufacturers, end-users and consumers and to the detriment of the Canadian economy overall. Because we believe that the proposed amendments to the SIMA would unnecessarily harm other Canadian stakeholders (i.e., manufacturers, importers, distributors, end-users and consumers) without providing any actual additional protection to domestic producers, we filed a submission in response to the Invitation to make the following points: i) We argued that the SIMA should not be amended to provide greater protection to domestic producers. ii) We argued that the proposed scope ruling process, which would allow parties to request an inquiry to determine whether an imported good is subject to an anti-dumping/countervailing duty finding, is not necessary. But, if the Department decides to institute this process, it should not be applied in a manner...

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SIMA Review? Maybe we can get the Right Balance This Time.

Posted by on May 30, 2016

The Department of Finance is seeking input on a “focused set of potential changes” to the Special Import Measures Act (SIMA)[1]. The potential changes would be made in three areas – calculation of normal values, enforcement and evidentiary standards – and would be considered from the perspective of: whether the system protects domestic producers from unfairly traded imports; whether the resulting changes would be transparent and could be effectively administered; whether the resulting changes would be consistent with international trade obligations; and whether the resulting changes would balance stakeholder interests including interests of producers, importers, users and consumers. Despite this broad description, the review’s purpose appears to be to determine whether the SIMA continues to protect domestic producers from unfairly-traded imports and what changes should be made to improve this protection. This approach is unlikely to address the broader question of whether trade remedies benefit the Canadian economy as a whole, including domestic producers, importers, end-users and consumers. To get to this issue, we should consider a slightly different set of questions. 1. Does the SIMA currently protect domestic producers from unfairly-traded imports? By any measure, the SIMA process continues to protect domestic producers from dumped and subsidized imports. A quick review of the CITT website shows that since Preliminary Injury Inquiries were introduced, the CITT has found in favour of domestic producers in almost every case, that between 2005 and 2015 the CITT made injury findings in approximately 77% of cases and that between 1990 and 2015 the CITT extended injury findings in approximately 85% of Expiry Reviews. In addition, product exclusions requested by importers and end-users are infrequently granted by the CITT and only in extraordinary cases when the requesting party can establish that product exclusion would not cause injury to domestic producers. The result is that domestic producers are far more likely to be protected by injury findings and that importers and end-users find it very difficult to obtain product exclusions. Consequently, the current trade remedy system continues to effectively protect domestic producers from unfairly-traded imports. 2. Are the proposals for scope and anti-circumvention processes necessary to ensure that injury findings are enforced? It is not...

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Did a New Brunswick Court Just End Barriers to Interprovincial Trade in Liquor? Don’t Count on it.

Posted by on May 6, 2016

On April 29, 2016, the New Brunswick Provincial Court struck down a fine issued to Gerard Comeau for possessing 15 cases of beer and 3 bottles of liquor that he had purchased in Quebec.  The Court found that Section 134(b) of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act, which made it illegal to possess liquor not purchased from the New Brunswick Liquor Commission, was unconstitutional because it did not allow goods of other provinces to be admitted free into New Brunswick contrary to Section 121 of the Constitution Act 1867.  Section 121 requires that goods produced, grown or manufactured in any province be admitted free into every other province. Because the Court found that this New Brunswick measure regulating possession of alcoholic beverages within the province was an unconstitutional non-tariff barrier, the decision arguably supports the position that all similar Provincial measures are also unconstitutional.  If so, this decision could be a step on the road to eliminating barriers to interprovincial trade in alcoholic beverages and a range of other products.   However, it is far from certain that this decision will result in any change to alcoholic beverage regulations. First, the New Brunswick decision’s expansive reading of Section 121 contradicts the Supreme Court of Canada’s position that Section 121 only protects the movement of Canadian goods against customs duties and charges applied to goods at the provincial border.  The Supreme Court has never held that Section 121 prohibits regulatory measures applied within a province.  This interpretation has been applied for the past 95 years, but was not followed by the New Brunswick Court because it heard evidence that the Fathers of Confederation intended that Section 121 be applied broadly to ensure free trade among the provinces.  Since it concluded that this evidence was never presented to the Supreme Court, the New Brunswick Court decided not to apply the Supreme Court’s interpretation and suggested that it be reconsidered.  For the New Brunswick Court’s decision to be applied more broadly in Canada, other Courts will have to agree that the Supreme Court did not properly consider the issue and that the evidence presented to the New Brunswick Court requires an expansive reading...

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