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International trade in 2018: making sense of a ‘tarrifying’ year

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CBC News surveyed a dozen Canadian and American researchers, lecturers, lawyers and business advocates to sum up this complicated and often frustrating year in international trade.

Here are a few highlights from what they shared with us.

What was the biggest surprise?

“The fact that Donald Trump carried through with steel and aluminum tariffs,” said Mark Agnew, director of international policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.  “People thought, ‘Surely he’s not going to do this against Canada.'”

They thought wrong.

“That really shocked me,” agreed Debra Steger, a former Canadian trade official now on the University of Ottawa’s law faculty, adding that Trump’s escalating tariff strategy over the last year caused a “ripple effect” of consequences — including retaliatory tariffs from other countries, Canada among them.

“Everything has been driven by the initial tarrifying actions that were deliberately taken by the United States as a cudgel over everyone’s heads to negotiate,” she said.

(Her use of the word ‘tarrifying’ serves double-duty as a pun. Trump’s indiscriminate use of tarrifs is terrifying for those who believe in international trade law.)

The new level of bullying was a surprise, she said. “We had never seen U.S. administrations behave that way before.”

“I thought this government was too pro-business to allow (the tariffs) to stay in place,” said Todd Tucker, a fellow at Washington D.C.’s Roosevelt Institute. “I underestimated the way Republicans rallied around Trump.”

Inu Manak, a Canadian trade researcher who now works at the Cato Institute, said she was caught off-guard by the level of Trump’s hostility toward Canada.

“At first I thought maybe he’s just joking around, and it’s a negotiating tactic,” she said.

But the tariffs persist, even after the revised North American trade agreement was signed.

“It was genuinely shocking, and genuinely negative for the bilateral relationship,” said Meredith Lilly, the Simon Reisman chair at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

What don’t people get?

“I don’t think the average person understood how completely integrated we are with the U.S. economy, and how foolish the idea that we would tell the Americans to bugger off would be,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association.

Trump’s presidential powers became a topic of fierce legal debate in 2018. Can he just terminate NAFTA if Congress won’t ratify the revisions he wants?

The U.S. presidency has been given a lot of authority over trade matters over the years, Manak said, but “the fact that this Congress has not pushed back a lot on a lot of stuff he’s done, doesn’t mean they can’t.”

U.S. House Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met President Trump at the White House earlier this month. The Democratic leaders didn’t shy away from confrontation, and it’s not clear they’ll be willing to work with the administration to ratify the revised NAFTA. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

That’s why the election of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives in November could be “a little destabilizing,” but good for the democratic process, she said.

“There’s the strong impression that he can just just unilaterally go back to pre-NAFTA tariffs on Canada and Mexico,” Tucker said. “I don’t know any constitutional law professor that thinks that.”

The public and partisan debate over Trump’s powers has generated more “heat than light,” he said, by not properly acknowledging that Congressional authority over tariffs.

Brian Kingston, vice-president for international and fiscal policy with the Business Council of Canada, said he thinks the Canadian public hasn’t properly grasped the role of Congress in trade deals, either.

But the Canadian government gets it, he said, “hence their very comprehensive lobbying and advocacy campaign” — especially important as long as Congressional ratification remains uncertain.

Trade lawyer Mark Warner doesn’t buy the argument that Trump can’t unilaterally terminate a trade treaty and throw everything into chaos.

The Canadian negotiators, Warner said, should have agreed to a deal earlier in the year, before the tariffs landed — even if that meant conceding more.

He said he thinks Ottawa misjudged the dynamics of the NAFTA negotiations from the start.

“The idea that Mexico was joined at the hip with Canada and wouldn’t go out on its own … it just didn’t make a lot of sense,” he said. “Our interests are not completely aligned and it’s something that we have now learned.”

What stories were overblown?

Lilly said she found the NAFTA negotiations were generally overhyped, with a lot of “false drama” coming from the Canadian side before the talks ended with a deal that turned out to be quite predictable.

“Much ado about very little change,” agreed Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Very anticlimactic.”

Her office did a lot of work trying to anticipate the disruption Trump’s threatened auto tariffs might trigger. But despite the hype, those tariffs haven’t materialized.

At least, not yet. (The U.S. Commerce Department report on whether automotive imports are a “national security” threat is due by February.)

“We were all concerned about ‘carmageddon,'” Volpe said, “but I wonder if the Americans would have pulled that trigger, because the bullet would have gone through both of us.”

The room was a bit tense as the revised North American trade agreement was signed Nov. 30. Outgoing Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto’s decision to announce a deal with the U.S. before Canada had concluded its negotiations made the final weeks difficult for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Agnew said the debate over Canada insisting on a cultural exemption also offered more drama than substance.

“In the end it was the dog that didn’t bark, with the retention of the exemption.”

Another new feature in NAFTA 2.0 — article 32.10 on negotiating a trade deal with a “non-market economy” (read: China) — will have “very little impact,” said Carlo Dade, director of the trade and investment centre at the Canada West Foundation.

“I don’t think it’s a total nothing, but it’s certainly not going to take away Canadian sovereignty and Canada’s ability to negotiate with China in the future,” Steger said.

What warranted more discussion?

“If there is a Russian strategy to undermine multilateralism and U.S. leadership of the global economy, it’s really more about economics than it is about defence,” said George Washington University’s Susan Aaronson.

The most competitive Canadian and American exports in the future will be agricultural commodities and services. But for both export sectors to succeed, they need trusted partners in world markets and a strong global consensus on what constitutes appropriate behaviour, Aaronson said.

Trump undermined all this, she said, which hurt Canada’s integrated economy — and left the Trudeau government little choice but to diversify its trade through other deals.

“It’s a good thing Canada’s doing that,” Aaronson said, “but in the long run, it’s a bad thing.” North America, she said, is more competitive when it works together. Plus, the world will miss U.S. leadership on trade — and it might not like what replaces it.

“We haven’t talked enough about what happens to Latin American relations in the middle of the confusion over the China-U.S. relationship,” said de Bolle, an expert on the region. “The region is very complicated right now.”

The new left-leaning, nationalist Mexican administration, for example, has closer ties to China, de Bolle said. The foreign policy of Brazil’s new government, a major economic player, is “crazy to me,” she added. And the Chinese are also securing key oil resources in Venezuela, as that country’s economy continues to implode.

Trade lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak said she thinks businesses are only just beginning to wake up to the consequences of politicians escalating economic sanctions against countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. The arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver, she said, may be only the beginning.

Canada’s new Magnitsky Act — a law allowing Canada to go after the assets of foreign officials implicated in human rights violations — should get more attention, she added, particularly if it’s applied to Saudi Arabia. “It will have a significant effect on companies carrying on business worldwide.”

Long-term consequences?

The effects of what unfolded over the last year may be felt for years to come.

“The hardening American consensus around Chinese trade practices is something that is here to stay,” Warner said, “even if Trump is defeated in 2020.”

“You would have seen Hillary Clinton do some of the same things” on China, said Tucker.

But what the history books will emphasize is Trump’s use of “national security” as an excuse for protecting domestic steel and aluminum industries, Tucker argues. Other countries already have started to follow suit, bringing unprecedented instability to the global trade system Americans once fought to establish.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump had a “working dinner” after the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina earlier this month. They announced a 90-day “truce” in their tariff war while officials attempt to work out a deal to de-escalate the conflict. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Dade calls Trump’s ongoing tariff war “the nuclear option.”

“The unthinkable has become normalized,” he said.

That puts a lot of pressure on countries like Canada, which are now being forced to pick a side.

“It’s going to affect every trade discussion that we have from now on,” Volpe said. “You’re going to have to know what the American position is before you even attempt a discussion with us.”

The American insistence on a sunset clause for NAFTA (even if it was watered down in the final text) reflects an increasing climate of protectionism in the U.S. that “isn’t a cyclical trend. That’s here to stay,” said Kingston.

“The very negative rhetoric and some of the missteps along the way have created the conditions that we may look back in 20 years and say this fundamentally changed the Canada–U.S. relationship,” Lilly said.

“Down the road we’re going to look back and say, ‘I wish this never happened,'” Manak said. “I’m a little nervous.”

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St Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa: 10 reasons to avoid this dealership

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St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership have been at the centre of numerous negative reviews by customers. The dealership has left numerous customers dissatisfied with their services due to their sheer unprofessionalism and poor management.

Now, many customers are advising others to steer clear of the dealership either for purchasing or servicing their Volvo—or any other luxury vehicle.

The Volvo brand is known for its high-end services, but the St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership has shown contempt in how it treats customers since their management takeover. Their poor communication, inflated prices, empty promises and late delivery timelines have been the highlight of most customer reviews of the dealership.

“If I had to describe my experience with St Laurent Volvo in one word it would be ‘nightmarish’. The service I received was night and day different from any other Volvo dealership I’ve been to. It is impressively poorly run,” said Sam, a dissatisfied customer who visited the dealership.

Therefore, if you live in Ottawa and need to either buy, service or repair a luxury vehicle, here are some reasons why you should avoid the St Laurent Volvo:

  1. Poor reception

Walking into the dealership alone is enough deterrent as the reception at this dealership is far from top-notch.

Customers who walk into the dealership aren’t greeted to a warm welcome but have to wait endlessly before they can get attended to.

“First I spent 30 mins waiting for a salesman and then left. The second time I spent 15min waiting. During that time, I read these reviews and realized I was making a mistake. Even if I got the car of my dreams it sounds like it comes with the service of my nightmares,” said Rudy Dunno after paying a visit to the dealership.

When customer service representatives are not trained properly, they tend to keep customers waiting for a long time as is the case at St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa.

  1. Inaccessibility

Contacting representatives at St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa is quite very difficult due to how unprofessional their employees are.

Customers have complained about how they have to endure days and even weeks of no communication from the staff at the dealership. This is particularly frustrating for customers especially when they have already paid for the service.

“Receptionist beyond rude… I called to find out the payout of my vehicle and nobody would call me back, had to call 3 times. Never again buying a vehicle from this particular dealership,” said William Delton.

  1. Ignored Better Business Bureau complaint

There is a Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint filed against the dealership by a customer who had dropped of their Volvo at the dealership early September this year.

However, till date, the BBB complaint has yet to be responded to, showing just how unprofessional the dealership has become.

“It is my humble opinion that this dealership is a shitshow, and I would be highly sceptical about any positive reviews posted based upon our experience which you will see in our very extensive BBB report,” said the claimant.

  1. Dishonesty and failed promises

Making a promising and failing to keep it is one of the major fails in customer service and this dealership is quite notorious for this.

“For weeks they kept promising us they would get the vehicle checked. Cliff and Frank multiple times promised to inspect our vehicle and didn’t,” said the disgruntled BBB claimant whose car was unattended to for almost two months.

Failure to keep promises made to customers is a huge red flag for prospective customers and a sign of irresponsibility.  

  1. Late delivery times

When a problem takes longer than expected to solve, it becomes harmful to the reputation of the business. This dealership can keep a customer’s vehicle unattended to for weeks and without any form of inspection being carried out.

Ramin Mesgarlou expressed his disappointment with the customer service at the dealership after they kept his vehicle for about a year just to fix a suspension fault.

“They kept my truck for about a year to fix a suspension fault. No less than 7 times they said my truck was fixed and it wasn’t .. in fact, the first time it wasn’t even touched,” said Ramin.

  1. Incompetent technicians

There have been numerous online complaints on how technicians at the St. Laurent Volvo dealership fail to diagnose the problem accurately and end up causing more damage to the car.

For instance, Vincent Gradeau had taken his car to the dealership when he noticed some problems with his car’s alternator. After waiting for days to know the status of his car, he eventually called, and they claimed to have fixed the problem, but the car was still problematic.

In fact, Vincent’s car now had a faulty alternator belt— a problem that never existed when he took his car to the dealership.

“The next day comes, they finally call me and tell my car is ready. A few weeks later, my alternator belt started to make a lot of noise. I wait a few weeks hoping the belt will tighten up, but without luck,” said Vincent.

  1. Careless service technicians

Despite how expensive the luxury vehicles that are driven into this dealership are, service technicians are still very careless with how they handle the cars brought in for servicing or repairs.

Guy Lagace took his Land Rover for service only to end up with various scratches and dents that were not originally there when he dropped off his vehicle. Even after insisting the dealership fixed the new damage, they still show a lot of incompetence.

“One week later I again asked to pick up my vehicle and again scratches not repaired but a poor attempt on buffing it, so much it caused more damage (paint burnishing) and left my vehicle full of buffing compound,” said Lagace.

You would expect that your expensive car be handled with care when left and the dealership but that’s not the case with St. Laurent Volvo.

  1. Inflated prices

This dealership gave a quote of almost $3000 to install an after-market Catalytic Convertor that cost less than half that price ($1400) at other similar dealerships.

Failure to keep it fair and transparent with customers is a major reason why you should avoid this dealership.

  1. Suspicious practices

From resisting to issue a formal invoice to racist behaviour towards certain customers, this dealership has been shown to involve in shady practices that shouldn’t be associated with a dealership of its size—or any dealership at all. 

“Then they resisted issuing a formal invoice for contemplated repairs like they are some shady garage,” said a BBB claimant.

The BBB claimant had been requesting for a formal invoice for weeks and when they eventually issued one, they refused to continue with the repairs. Another customer also claims to have been a target of racist behaviour from the staff.

“I have never met such an insolent salesperson who keeps pushing potential customers to other stores. I guess she may have a racist attitude because I reviewed the previous comments,” said Elain Luo, who came to buy a Volvo XC90 at the dealership with her husband.

  1. Poorly managed facility

There is a clear lack of quality standards and accountability from the staff at the St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership. The environment has been made very toxic for customers with rude employees and an unkempt service department.

“Wow, I must say, I saw some poor part department in my life, but this is the worst really. First, it is a dump. It was so messy, just incredible. The gentleman at the counter seems totally lost. In all, I what I am certain is, I will never ever return to this dealership,” said Claude Brunette after a visit to the dealership.

In conclusion, car dealerships always play an important role in the lifespan and ownership experience of your vehicle. Therefore, it is necessary to take your time to evaluate your options and choose a dealership that guarantees you premium services that match and exceed your expectations. 

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St Laurent Volvo: Deeps Dossanjh runs dealership into the ground with Better Business Bureau complaints

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Once the most popular and revered dealership in Ottawa, the St. Laurent Volvo is struggling to leave a positive impression on customers.

Currently managed by Deeps Dossanjh, the St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa dealership is now riddled with numerous complaints by dissatisfied customers due to their unprofessionalism and sketchy practices. This damage to their reputation by the new management is threatening to run the business into the ground as many customers are now advising others to avoid them either for purchasing or servicing their Volvo—or any other luxury vehicle.

“What has gone wrong at Land Rover Ottawa! When you pay top price for a vehicle you expect a quality customer service and, until recently, that used to be the case,” said Alf, a long time customer of the dealership.

The sheer negligence being shown by Dossanjh becomes clearer in how he has willfully ignored a Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint filed against the dealership.

“It is my humble opinion that this dealership is a shitshow, and I would be highly sceptical about any positive reviews posted based upon our experience which you will see in our very extensive BBB report,” said the BBB claimant.

According to this claimant, he dropped off his Volvo at the dealership on Sept 1, 2020, for repairs, to later get it repainted before winter. However, for several weeks, he kept getting empty promises on when the vehicle would be checked and eventually got frustrated by the dealership.

Since Dossanjh took over leadership at the St. Laurent Volvo, the quality of service rendered by the dealership has continued to nosedive, said the claimant.

“I have been going to St Laurent Volvo for many years and experienced excellent client services.  But the new franchise owners have no respect for Volvo owners or any clients,” he noted.

The Google review section of the St. Laurent Volvo and Land Rover Ottawa dealership which are both managed by Dossanjh, are filled with various other complaints from disappointed customers. There are various similarities in each customer’s complaints as they border on poor customer service, terrible communication, late delivery timelines and unscrupulous practices.

“Receptionist beyond rude… I called to find out the payout of my vehicle and nobody would call me back, had to call 3 times. Never again buying a vehicle from this particular dealership,” said William Delton in his review of the dealership.

John Avudria, another disappointed customer, spoke of how ineffectual the service department at the dealership when he had issues with his Range Rover Evoque.  

“In 3 months, these guys could not figure a problem that seems to have been with remote key sensors. I had to call Jaguar and Land Rover head office in New Jersey,” said Avudria.

The consistent bad reviews from customers about their poor services shows that Dossanjh is incapable of running this dealership and is bound to run it to the ground if nothing changes soon.

“We just experienced the worse customer service in the history of owning a car!” wrote Victoria Wnek in a review.

Victoria recently moved to Ottawa and needed to get a first-year oil change, fix her rattled speaker and update the software on her Jaguar which was still under warranty. However, after contacting Dossanjh’s dealership, she was met with a series of disappointments—from ignored calls to utter disrespect from the manager.

Eventually, Victoria had to take her car back after several weeks of time wasted going back and forth with the manager who eventually declined to fix the car.

“He wasted our time … and sent us a message that he doesn’t want our business. After being a repeat customer of Jaguar, we are extremely disappointed. These people simply do not care!” she said.

There have also been claims of racism targeted towards certain customers by employees at the Dossanjh’s dealership. 

Elain Luo came to buy a Volvo XC90 at the St. Laurent Volvo dealership with her husband and received a very rude welcome by who she describes as “an insolent salesperson who keeps pushing potential customers to other stores.”

According to Luo, the salesperson may have equally been racist based on her attitude towards her and other Asian customer reviews she had read online.

“I reviewed the previous comments, and another Asian customer also had the worst experience with the same young lady, Alanna Noakes!!! I really felt bad after leaving there,” Luo said. 

St. Laurent Volvo dealership has continued to display unprofessionalism in how they treat their customers and this is a complete deviation from what is expected in luxury dealerships.

“I was left on hold by the receptionist for nearly 15 minutes before finally having the misfortune of speaking to a female on the service department that left me feeling my custom was an inconvenience,” said Alf in his review.

With the amount of negativity ascribed with St. Laurent Volvo, it is only a matter of time before they seize to be operational.

“We are going to ask all Volvo owners who have reported a bad experience online of St Laurent Volvo to collective report to the local Better Business Bureau,” said the BBB claimant.

There’s bound to be more complaints filed against them in the future with the BBB claimant urging more customers to report their bad experiences at the hands of St Laurent Volvo Ottawa.

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Better Business Bureau complaint shows St-Laurent Volvo is getting worse

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Some businesses assume that most customers would just ignore bad customer service and not care to do anything about it. While that may be true in some instances, more customers today are now telling others about their bad experiences online, especially with the internet being easily accessible to everyone.

In the past few years, St. Laurent Volvo Ottawa has come under heavy criticism by customers over its poor services and now, more customers are sharing their bad experience with the dealership online as a deterrent to others.

Deeps Dossanjh manages the dealership which has now been labelled as one of the worst places to buy or repair a car in Ottawa as the negative reviews that continue mount. Customers expect that a reputable brand like Volvo should have dealerships that provide timely and professional services with staff that are courteous and honest. However, that seems to be the direct opposite of the services offered by St. Laurent Volvo.

“Very bad dealership. Salespeople bad, service desk at this dealership is godawful and I would never EVER buy another Volvo again,” said Dr. Smythe, a disgruntled customer

While reviews can vary from person to person and sometimes aren’t a complete representation of what might have transpired but with Dossanjh’s dealership, the constant complain over their poor services is worth taking a look at.

The negative reviews left by customers at Dossanjn’s dealership are mostly centred around the poor quality of services being rendered and their unprofessional practices. In her review, Steph narrated how she took her few months old Range Rover Evoque to the dealership after noticing a problem with her breaks only to be treated in an unprofessional manner.

“They have to have the worst service for a high-end dealer I have ever experienced. To have to wait 6 months to get them to fix something after I purchased a brand new vehicle is ridiculous,” said Steph after the dealership stalled in fixing her problem.

“We have purchased three very expensive vehicles from this dealer within the last year and will have to look elsewhere when it’s time for a trade. They don’t care about your business after they get your money. Extremely disappointed,” she added.

For a dealership of this size, their services are night and day different from what is expected and there’s even a Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint filed against the dealership.

“It is my humble opinion that this dealership is a shitshow, and I would be highly sceptical about any positive reviews posted based upon our experience which you will see in our very extensive BBB report,” said the BBB claimant.

The claimant had dropped off his Volvo at the dealership early September this year for repairs and later get it repainted before winter. However, for several weeks, he kept getting empty promises on when the vehicle would be checked, leading to a very frustrating experience.

“For weeks they kept promising us they would get the vehicle checked. They didn’t inspect it until sometime in October,” said the claimant.

In Ramin Mesgarlou’s case, his truck was kept at the dealership for almost a year just to fix a suspension fault.

“They kept my truck for about a year to fix a suspension fault. No less than 7 times they said my truck was fixed and it wasn’t .. in fact, the first time it wasn’t even touched yet they charged my AMEX $3,000,” Ramin revealed.

The decline in the quality of service rendered by St. Laurent Volvo appears to have nosedived since Dossanjh took over leadership, said the claimant.

“I have been going to St Laurent Volvo for many years and experienced excellent client services.  But the new franchise owners have no respect for Volvo owners or any clients,” he noted.

The Google review section of the dealership is filled with other complaints from several angry customers, all with similar complaints on poor customer service, terrible communication, late delivery timelines and shady practices.

“Receptionist beyond rude… I called to find out the payout of my vehicle and nobody would call me back, had to call 3 times. Never again buying a vehicle from this particular dealership,” said William Delton in his review of the dealership.

Another customer, Kelly, equally experienced how staff at the dealership ignored her calls for weeks and never even bothered to return them.

“Called for a service and it went to voicemail and left a message three weeks ago still no callback. They will need to really start working on their customer service skills,” said Kelly.

Dossanjh’s dealership appears to be reaching new heights in bad service with one customer tagging the dealership “the worst customer service in history”. There have also been claims of racism and extortion carried out by employees at Dossanjh’s dealership. 

Elain Luo, who came to buy a Volvo XC90 at the dealership with her husband, said the attendant who welcomed them at the dealership was exhibiting racist tendencies.

“She seemed unwilling to do business with us and I guess she may have a racist attitude because I reviewed the previous comments, and another Asian customer also had the worst experience with the same young lady,” she said.

According to a BBB claimant, the dealership charged him double the rate for the repair and installation of a Catalytic Convertor when similar repairs had been done for a cheaper rate on another Volvo elsewhere.

“St Laurent Volvo was seeking to charge us an inflated price of $2800 for a convertor when I paid $1400 before on a separate vehicle,” said the BBB claimant.

The dealership is still yet to respond to the BBB complaint filed against them and has shown no signs of improving on their services. Now, customers are advising others to steer clear of the dealership either for purchasing or servicing their Volvo—or any other luxury vehicle.

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