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Imported Drywall Tariffs Spark Controversy
CHBA’s Kevin Lee Takes a Look at the Human Face of Trade Disputes


OTTAWA — Trade fairness is a complicated area of endeavour, and one with many principal actors: the federal Finance Minister, the Competition Bureau, the Canada Border Services Agency (previously known as Canada Customs), the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT), and a plethora of stakeholder groups.  When governments intervene in trade matters, they do so to uphold the public interest.  They do so in order to balance technical arguments or empirical assertions of unfairness that are often narrow in scope with more wide-ranging human realities. 
Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau took his responsibilities to an important new level in the recent customs dispute over drywall entering Western Canada from the United States.  The Finance Minister is perhaps the first in his post to dictate that the process evaluating the imposition of hefty new surprise tariffs on imported drywall – ranging up to 324% – be evaluated at the same time through a human prism: the public interest.  In a ground breaking move, he charged Canada’s trade tribunal to consider public interest equally to the minutiae of geographical pricing statistics and wholesale/retail pricing differentials, and the many other “empirical” calculations that inform the decision of tribunal members on whether or not there is a case for a tariff.
The CITT’s hearings on the public interest in the matter of these tariffs ended last week and the Tribunal will release its final determination, and its recommendations to the Finance Minister, on January 4th.   
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