WTO complaint could ‘blow up in Canada’s face’ says former trade envoy

Click to play video: 'Questionable timing for Canada to launch WTO complaint against U.S.: Froman'
Questionable timing for Canada to launch WTO complaint against U.S.: Froman
WATCH ABOVE: Ambassador Michael Froman, former trade representative under president Obama tells Vassy Kapelos he hopes Canada's complaint before the World Trade Organization against the U.S. does not blow up on them given President Trump is critical of the WTO and the dispute settlement body, and he is ready to take on the WTO to prove it should not be involved – Jan 21, 2018

A former U.S. trade representative says he’s hoping that a recent wide-ranging trade complaint launched by the Canadian government against the United States won’t “end up blowing up in their face” at the NAFTA negotiating table.

Canada is challenging Washington’s use of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, according to a World Trade Organization (WTO) filing dated Dec. 20. The move came in the wake of new American duties on Canadian paper and a series of similar tariffs linked to softwood lumber and aerospace giant Bombardier.

Donald Trump’s protectionist leanings have been obvious since before the U.S. presidential election, but Froman noted that the president has been particularly critical of the WTO and its system for dispute settlement.

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“Canada bringing that challenge to the WTO is almost picking a fight that the administration would welcome,” he said. “The administration would welcome an opportunity to say the WTO really shouldn’t be in a position to judge these things … That’s not in anybody’s interests, certainly not in Canada’s interests, and I hope that cooler heads will prevail.”

WATCH: Trump claims WTO has not treated U.S. ‘fairly’ due to members abusing trade rules

Click to play video: 'Trump claims WTO has not treated U.S. ‘fairly’ due to members abusing trade rules'
Trump claims WTO has not treated U.S. ‘fairly’ due to members abusing trade rules

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne defended the WTO filing earlier this month, saying it sends a message that Canada won’t back down.

“When people see that you’re firm, you get respect,” Champagne told reporters.

Working toward a deal

According to Froman, it was always “ambitious” for Mexico, Canada and the U.S. to think a new NAFTA deal could be completed in 2017, or even by March 2018.

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The next sit-down is scheduled to happen in Montreal on Tuesday, with Canada saying it is hoping for the best outcome, but preparing for the worst. Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull the U.S. out of the deal, but recently seemed to suggest he might wait until after Mexico’s elections in the summer.

Meanwhile, each new round of talks brings the parties closer to resolving the toughest issues on the table, Froman said, or to pulling out entirely.

“It’s at a critical point where I think it will be important to show whether progress can be made on some of the most difficult, outstanding issues,” he told Kapelos.

“I think it’s going to be very interesting to see whether those do prove, at the end of the day, to be red lines.”

– Watch the full interview with former U.S. trade envoy Michael Froman above.

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