Sanctions target U.S. protectionism

Published April 3, 2005

Canada is turning up the heat on the United States by imposing rarely used sanctions to try to force an end to a punishing protectionism law.

A 15 percent surtax will take effect May 1 on cigarettes, oysters, live swine and some fish imports from the United States.

Similar action is planned on paper, textiles, machinery and farm produce by the 25-member European Union and other countries, including Brazil, India and Japan, to fight the U.S. Byrd amendment.

Prime Minister Paul Martin said Canada had no choice, calling the law "the ultimate in protectionism," but the stakes are high.

If Canada fails in this fight, its softwood lumber industry stands to lose more than $4-billion in contested duties paid so far in the long-running trade dispute, as the United States could pass them on to its producers.

"We have to find a means of convincing Congress to respect the rulings of the World Trade Organization (on the Byrd legality)," said Perrin Beatty, chief executive of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

Paul Cellucci, recently retired U.S. ambassador to Canada, said Canadians likely would have to hit Congress hard with sanctions before it would repeal the law.

English-language schools more accessible in Quebec

Anglophones, whose first language is English, in mainly French-speaking Quebec have won a partial victory in their fight for easier access to English schools.

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling will make it easier for Canadians from other provinces and immigrants who move to Quebec to attend English schools.

In making the decision, the court averted the threat of sparking a new round of language wars by not altering the provincial language law, known as Bill 101. It requires children born in Quebec to be educated in French-language schools to protect the province's distinct heritage.

News in brief

Canada's Competition Bureau says record-high gasoline prices are caused by low inventories and the soaring cost of oil, not from collusion among the big energy companies. The report is the fifth major investigation in 15 years, all of which have found no evidence of a conspiracy to limit competition.

Labatt Brewing Co. will close its Toronto production facility, which employs 265 workers, in November in a cost-cutting move.

Facts and figures

The value of the Canadian dollar is little changed over the past week at 82.23 U.S. cents, while the U.S. dollar is $1.2161 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains steady at 2.5 percent, while the prime lending rate is 4.25 percent.

Stock markets are mixed, with Toronto's composite index up to 9,638 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange lower at 1,849 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 10, 24, 27, 30 and 47; bonus 41. (March 26) 2, 19, 27, 32, 41 and 43; bonus 24.

Regional briefs

A seal hunter fired a rifle into the air Friday as sealers and protesters clashed on ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The confrontation happened as three helicopters carrying activists and photographers landed near a sealing vessel off Prince Edward Island. Activist Paul Watson and animal protection groups are monitoring the annual hunt of 90,000 seals in a bid to reignite international opposition.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com