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U.S. officials discussed hitting Canada with trade sanctions over Quebec's language law

U.S government officials have discussed behind closed doors the possibility of imposing trade sanctions on Canada over Quebec's controversial Bill 96 language law, CBC News has learned.

Documents obtained by CBC News under the U.S. freedom of information law also reveal that American government officials are being told that the implementation of Bill 96 could result in fewer American products being shipped to Canada — not just to Quebec.

According to the documents, officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) have debated whether the legislation — which includes provisions that could affect things like commercial signs, trademarks and labels on products — contravenes trade agreements between Canada and the United States.

U.S. officials have discussed in private whether the restrictions in Bill 96 constitute a technical barrier to trade, a breach of trade-related intellectual property rights or a violation of Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, and whether those breaches would justify trade sanctions.

The documents, which cover the period of November 2022 to late January 2024, don't reveal whether USTR officials have reached a conclusion on trade sanctions.

Asked for an update, USTR deputy press secretary Catherine White pointed to the readout of a meeting between Canadian and American trade officials in January, which mentions U.S. government concerns about Bill 96.

Jean-Pierre Godbout, spokesperson for Global Affairs, said the Canadian government is «closely following developments.»

«The Government of Canada is aware of the concerns expressed by various stakeholders regarding Quebec's amendments to the Charter of the French Language as modernized under Bill 96 and accompanying regulations,» Godbout wrote

Read more on cbc.ca