Canada: What Is The Canadian International Trade Tribunal?

Last Updated: January 11 2018
Article by Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal (also known as the "CITT") is an independent, Canadian quasi-judicial administrative tribunal that adjudicates a variety of international trade cases and matters. The CITT is the place to go to receive a fair, timely, transparent and effective resolution of a trade-related dispute and/or government-mandated inquiry/dispute, provided that the trade-related dispute is within an area of the Tribunal's jurisdiction.

The types of international trade cases and matters within the CITT's jurisdiction include:

  • customs valuation appeals;
  • customs origin appeals;
  • tariff classification appeals;
  • appeals of advance customs rulings;
  • excise tax (e.g., levied on certain petroleum products, heavy automobiles and air conditioners designed for automobiles) appeals;
  • reviews of procurement-related issues (mostly involving the Government of Canada) (also known as "bid challenges");
  • antidumping/countervailing duty preliminary injury inquiries;
  • antidumping/countervailing duty injury inquires;
  • antidumping/countervailing duty interim reviews;
  • antidumping/countervailing duty expiry reviews;
  • antidumping/countervailing duty public interest inquiries;
  • antidumping/countervailing duty circumvention proceeding appeals;
  • appeals of antidumping/countervailing duty rulings;
  • exporter rulings relating imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties;
  • global safeguard inquiries;
  • reviews requested by the Government of Canada related to tariffs, trade and economics; and
  • textile references requests by domestic producers for tariff relief on imported textile inputs for production.

Why Go To The CITT?

You would consider going to the CITT if you wish to undertake any of the following legal steps or accomplish any of the following in order to make your business more competitive:

  • file an appeal of a decision by the Canada Border Services Agency ("CBSA") to confirm a detailed adjustment statement assessing customs duties based on a tariff classification issue;
  • file an appeal of a decision by the CBSA to confirm a detailed adjustment statement assessing customs duties based on a valuation issue;
  • file an appeal of a decision by the CBSA to confirm a detailed adjustment statement assessing customs duties based on an origin issue;
  • file an appeal of a CBSA advance customs ruling / national customs ruling that you believe is not correct;
  • file an appeal of a decision by the CBSA to confirm a detailed adjustment statement assessing excise taxes;
  • file an appeal of a decision by the CBSA to confirm a detailed adjustment statement assessing antidumping and/or countervailing duties;
  • challenge a Government of Canada decision to not award a government contract to you for reasons that you feel are not fair or are discriminatory;
  • challenge a Government of Canada tender document that you believe is unclear or favours a particular bidder;
  • challenge a Government of Canada decision to sole-source a government contract that you believe is covered by a free trade agreement;
  • participate in an antidumping/countervailing duty preliminary injury inquiry (e.g., to challenge a complaint or seek a ruling on classes of goods);
  • participate in an antidumping/countervailing duty injury inquiry (e.g., to provide evidence to the CITT that the domestic industry is not injured by imports);
  • participate in an antidumping/countervailing duty expiry review inquiry (after antidumpnig duties/countervailing duties have been in place for 5 years);
  • ask the CITT to grant a product exclusion in an antidumping/countervailing duty inquiry to exclude certain goods from an antidumping/countervailing duty order;
  • seek a product exclusion by way of an interim review when it is clear that the domestic industry does not manufacture goods that you wish to import (so that the goods are no longer subject to antidumping/countervailing duties);
  • ask the CITT to rescind an antidumping/countervailing duty order when the domestic industry stops production in Canada (by way of an interim review);
  • ask the CITT to issue an importer ruling;
  • ask the CITT to conduct a safeguard inquiry because imports are causing serious injury to domestic production; and
  • request (by a domestic textile and/or apparel producer) tariff relief on imported textile inputs for production.

Some of these types of trade-related disputes are complex and some are straight-forward. Some of the issues involve significant dollars and some of the disputes may involve a very small amount of money (e.g., a small assessment of customs duties). Resolution of some of the issues may be strategically important to your business.  Sometimes, Canadian businesses need an issue resolved for certainty. Big and small may come to the CITT for redress and resolution.

The CITT is known as an "administrative tribunal".  The CITT is like a court, but is not a court. What this means is that the CITT members (what the judges are called) may proactively ask questions of the parties.  The CITT members do not necessarily limit their reviews to the issues raised by the parties.  The CITT may not be able to award costs (e.g., if you are successful in your customs and antidumping appeal).

The CITT's jurisdiction is limited by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, which sets out the powers of the CITT.  The CITT's powers may be further limited by laws such as the Customs Act, Special Import Measures Act and the Excise Tax Act (which are the primary statutes referring matters to the CITT as the decision-maker).

The procedural rules that parties follow when they appear before the CITT are found the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Rules. Depending on the type of proceeding, you may have to refer to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Regulations (safeguard inquiries) or the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Procurement Inquiry Regulations (bid challenges) or another regulation, such as the Special Import Measures Regulations (antidumping/countervailing duties).

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) is the bid challenge authority for Canada for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement (WTO-AGP), Canada – Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), Canada – Peru Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA), Canadian Free Trade Agreement and Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT).

The CITT is taking positive steps to become more accessible to Canadian businesses, including SMEs and SMBs.  For example, the CITT has developed a process to permit parties to provide testimony by way of teleconferencing (as opposed to requiring a trip to Ottawa).  The CITT has posted guidance on their web-sites, such as:

How to File a Procurement Complaint;
How to File a Customs or Excise Appeal;
Anti-Dumping Inquiries: A Descriptive Guide;
Guideline to Making Product Exclusion Requests;
Safeguard Inquiry Guidelines; and
Textile Reference Guide.

The CITT is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and conducts most hearings in the two hearing rooms in Ottawa.  Sometimes the CITT conducts hearings in other major Canadian cities (e.g., Vancouver, Edmonton, etc.).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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