Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Makes No Sense': Trudeau Sounds Alarm Bell as U.S. Inches toward Tariff War

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Makes No Sense': Trudeau Sounds Alarm Bell as U.S. Inches toward Tariff War

Article excerpt

PM: U.S. tariff on Canada 'makes no sense'

--

WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau describes it as baffling that the United States might be on the verge of using national security as an excuse to impose heavy tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

He reacted Friday after the U.S. indicated that it was leaning toward using a rarely invoked provision in American law that allows a president to unilaterally declare tariffs to counter threats to national security.

As the No. 1 supplier of both steel and aluminum to its southern neighbour, Canada is lobbying hard for an exemption. Canada has hinted at retaliatory action, as have the European Union and Mexico in what could morph into a global trade war.

''It just makes no sense to highlight that Canada and Canadian steel or aluminum might be a security threat to the United States,'' Trudeau said during an event in Barrie, Ont.

''That's why this is absolutely unacceptable and it's a point we've made many times, that I've made directly with the president. It's one that we're going continue to engage with all levels of the U.S. administration on.''

That lobbying effort is facing an uphill battle, if signs Friday are any indication.

U.S. President Donald Trump has a campaign-style rally scheduled March 10 in Pennsylvania, which is the historic heart of the American steel industry and which is now the site of an unexpectedly hard-fought special congressional election.

Trump was reportedly in a foul mood over months of internal foot-dragging over tariffs. He even said he welcomed a tariff war, given the size of the U.S. import-export deficit, tweeting Friday: ''Trade wars are good, and easy to win.''

Trump has announced plans for a tariff of 25 per cent on steel, and 10 per cent on aluminum. Canada is the top supplier of each to the U.S., with $15 billion a year in combined sales for use in things like cars and, ironically, American military gear.

Meanwhile, the protectionist wing of the U.S. administration appears ascendant. The free traders around Trump were frozen out of recent decision-making, according to U.S. press reports. That includes the U.S. military -- which has publicly disputed the idea that steel and aluminum imports are a security threat at all, arguing against broad tariffs that might damage alliances.

But the top official on the U.S. steel file appeared Friday to describe it as a fait accompli.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended the idea of tariffs on everybody in an interview, and when he asked whether Trump indeed planned to impose penalties on the entire globe he answered in the affirmative.

''That's what the president seemed to announce,'' Ross told CNBC. ''Let's assume that to be the case.''

He went on to say partial tariffs wouldn't work. For example, the U.S. already experimented with steel tariffs or import controls in the 1980s and early 2000s. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.