Canada to face U.S. trade problems even if NAFTA is signed -Ottawa

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Trade challenges from U.S. firms

will continue to cause turbulence for Canada even if talks to

modernize NAFTA are successful, a senior Canadian government

official said on Tuesday.


Canada sends 75 percent of its goods exports to the United

States and is vulnerable to what Ottawa complains is increasing

U.S. protectionism since President Donald Trump took power in

January 2017.


Talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement are

moving slowly as Canada and Mexico seek to address a series of

radical U.S. demands for change. The negotiations were supposed

to wrap up by end-March look set to overrun by



“Even if a new NAFTA were to be signed tomorrow I think we

would still face a lot of turbulence in our relationship with

the United States on trade,” said Timothy Sargent, the top

bureaucrat in Canada’s Trade Ministry.


Sargent, speaking to an Ottawa conference organized by the

Canadian Global Affairs Institute, noted recent U.S. moves to

impose duties on Canadian softwood lumber, commercial airliners

and some paper products. All were prompted by complaints from

American firms.


Sargent also cited Trump’s recent move to place duties on

imports of solar panels.


“I think we can expect more of that,” he said. “The way the

U.S. system is set up (makes) it very easy for businesses that

think they face challenges to go and get countervail or

antidumping actions. So I think there are very big challenges

for Canada.”


Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator, is due to

address the conference later on Tuesday.


Last December Canada launched a wide-ranging trade complaint

against the United States at the World Trade Organization,

challenging Washington’s use of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy



U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, speaking at the

end of the most recent NAFTA talks in Montreal last month,

called the move “unprecedented, imprudent, even spiteful.”



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