U.S. wins key issues in WTO wheat dispute with Canada

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WASHINGTON – A World Trade Organization panel has agreed with the United States that Canada’s grain distribution system is unfair and violates Canada’s WTO obligations.

This result is consistent with a long history of WTO rulings that additional regulatory hurdles cannot be placed only on foreign products.

The United States filed the dispute against Canada in the WTO challenging the unfair and burdensome requirements that the Canadian grain handling system places on imported grain, including U.S. grain, and certain discriminatory aspects of the rail transportation system in Canada.

The dispute also challenges monopolistic wheat trading practices of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Foreign grain. The panel accepted the U.S. claims that Canada’s grain handling system and Canada’s rail transportation measure known as the “rail revenue cap” discriminate against foreign grain.

“This is a win for American farmers. The WTO found that Canada unfairly discriminates against American wheat and grains,” said U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick.

“In matters involving dairy, lumber, and now wheat, the United States has successfully prevailed at the WTO on key issues concerning unfair Canadian practices.”

Against United States. The panel found against the United States with respect to the unfair practices of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The panel found that WTO rules do not prevent state trading enterprises like the Canadian Wheat Board from using their monopolistic privileges to the disadvantage of commercial actors.

“The finding regarding the Canadian Wheat Board demonstrates the need to strengthen rules on state trading enterprises in the WTO,” Zoellick said.

“The United States will continue through the WTO negotiations to aggressively pursue reform of the WTO rules in an effort to create an effective regime to address the unfair monopolistic practices of state trading enterprises like the Canadian Wheat Board.”

Shortfall. In the last six months, the Canadian Wheat Board announced that it overpaid Canadian farmers for their 2002 wheat crop by US$65 million.

The government of Canada will pay the Canadian Wheat Board to make up this shortfall.

Although not a part of the WTO case, it is an example of one of the many special privileges granted to the Canadian Wheat Board by the Canadian government that makes it difficult for private sector actors to compete on a level playing field.

Findings. The WTO panel sided with the United States on most of the claims in this dispute.

Specifically, the panel found that:

* Canada’s mandatory authorization requirements for foreign grain entering Canadian grain elevators violate national treatment principles.

* Canada’s “rail revenue cap,” which may result in lower rail transportation rates for the Canadian Wheat Board than for imported grain, also violates national treatment principles.

* Canada’s prohibition on mixing foreign grain with Eastern Canadian grain also violates national treatment principles.

The panel did not find that the Canadian Wheat Board export regime violates Canada’s obligations under GATT Article XVII governing the behavior of state trading enterprises.

Can appeal. Both the United States and Canada each may appeal the report. The United States is currently reviewing its options regarding appeal.

If neither party appeals, the report could be adopted by the WTO.

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