The Canadian government has asked for a delay in a World Trade Organization probe into US anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Canadian hard red spring wheat exports in order to provide time for a North American Free Trade Agreement appeal on the same issue, said Canadian Wheat Board spokeswoman Louise Waldman.

The arguments were to be heard at the WTO meetings in Geneva on July 20, but Canadian government has decided to delay the wheat issue while an appeal is heard by NAFTA, said CWB spokesperson, Louise Waldman.

In October, 2003, the US International Trade Commission ruled that CWB hard red spring wheat sales into the US had hurt US farmers. A combined 14.6% anti-dumping and countervailing duty was imposed.

The CWB is currently involved in a NAFTA appeal along with the provincial governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The appeal process started in November, 2003 and is scheduled to play out over the next 6 months, said Waldman. “Depending on the results of the NAFTA challenge, then we would move on, or we might decide not to move on, to the WTO,” said Waldman. She said the idea was to streamline the process, rather than have multiple appeals going on at the same time.

A NAFTA panel consisting of two Canadians and three Americans has been appointed to investigate the countervailing duties, said Waldman. The filings are complete and a hearing is expected in the fall. On the anti-dumping side of the hard red spring dispute, the panel has yet to be appointed and filings are to be completed by the end of this week.

Canada has been able to sell wheat to other markets since the US duties have been imposed, said Waldman. However, the reduction in US business is expected to cost the Canadian industry C$30 million a year, she added. (Dow Jones Newswires)