Canada will not bend to Trump's tariff pressure in NAFTA talks: Freeland

Lester Mason
March 15, 2018

President Donald Trump urged the quick completion of the NAFTA negotiations in a phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, amid indications the USA wants a deal wrapped up this spring.

There is genuine concern among aluminum workers that that an exemption from a "Trump tariff" - an export fee - will be reversed. On Monday, Trudeau called Trump to stress the need to preserve cross-border supply chains. Quebec is a huge stakeholder, which is why the Prime Minister is visiting.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Hamilton on Tuesday for the second leg of his cross-Canada tour of steel plants, and he's likely to get an earful from local steelworkers.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will be in Washington for three days this week - meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and key members of Congress. Yet privately, many nations are moving to consider trade concessions that would exempt them from the US tariffs. Trump backed off the threat last week, but indicated he could still link any potential tariffs, which could be as high as 25 per cent on Canadian steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, to renegotiating a better deal under the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada.

Prior to announcing the exemption, Trump said he would lift the tariffs off of Canada and Mexico only if a new NAFTA deal were signed.

NAFTA talks started seven months ago and the starting to get antsy about getting a deal. "While we are grateful that our trading partners, Canada and Mexico, are now exempt, it is our view that these tariffs will quickly become a tax on the fix and maintenance of vehicles, a tax that will ultimately be paid for in higher fix prices by the American auto owner".

Trudeau accused China of flooding global markets with cheap steel on Monday, saying Canada has already taken steps to prevent "dumping". Asked if he viewed the tariff exemption as a form of economic blackmail, Trudeau demurred and said his country is also interested in reshaping NAFTA.

March 23 in the USA will come into effect duties on steel imports (25%) and aluminium (10%) by order of the President.

"We are negotiating the NAFTA accord in good faith and we will continue to do so but I don't want the president to think he can bring tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum without there being consequences", he told Radio-Canada earlier in the day.

Trudeau said Canada already has "significant barriers" in place to prevent low-priced steel and aluminum from being dumped there, and is prepared to work with Washington to "do even more".

"We'll just respond the way we have, with focus on the work we do together and not too much worry about the rhetoric", he said.

USA tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum would be "very harmful" for industry and workers in both countries, he added.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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