OTTAWA — Canada is working with politicians and businesses in the United States to pressure President Donald Trump to scrap tariffs on its steel and aluminum, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
Trump imposed the measures last May, citing national security. Canada condemned the move and initially suggested it would not ink a new continental trade pact with the United States and Mexico unless the sanctions were lifted.
Trudeau, who did end up signing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement last November, said the government was trying to change Trump’s mind as the United States prepared to start the ratification of the pact.
“We have already been working with members of Congress, with governors, with business interests who are being affected negatively by these tariffs ... to put pressure on the President that in the process of ratification, they (the United States) should remove those steel and aluminum tariffs,” he said.
Trudeau made his remarks Thursday during a televised question-and-answer session with an audience in Regina in the western province of Saskatchewan.
So far, Canadian suppliers have been taking the cost of the tariffs in stride, but that might not be the case for much longer.
Martinrea International Inc. Chairman Rob Wildeboer, in an interview with Automotive News Canada in late 2018, urged the federal government to lift its steel and aluminum tariffs, assuming the government believes the United States will eventually lift its own. He said the tariffs were primarily used as a negotiating tactic, and that they are unnecessary now that a trade deal has been reached.
“This was not meant to be a tax to raise revenue for the government,” he said. “It was meant to stand up to the Americans, and I think we did. I think the tariffs served their purpose, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face.”
Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz recently said “pain is obviously building.”
Asked why he had signed the USMCA with the tariffs still in place, Trudeau said securing the deal “at a time of unpredictability and protectionism in the United States was a massive priority for all Canadians”.
Canada sends 75 per cent of all its goods exports to the United States.
Trudeau and Trump discussed the tariffs on Monday but no talks on lifting the sanctions are planned, a Canadian source familiar with the matter said.
U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said on Wednesday the measures would have to be lifted in order to get agricultural interests to support congressional approval for the USMCA.