Over the past several days, Canada moved squarely into U.S. President Donald Trump’s crosshairs. He has lodged a string of bitter complaints about some Canadian trade practices and even imposed tariffs on imports of softwood lumber.
As U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday, it’s been “a bad week for U.S.-Canada trade relations.”
The question is, will it get worse?
Yesterday, the president announced significant tariffs of up to 24 per cent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, saying “Canada has treated us very unfairly.”
But the first salvo came last week when Trump veered off script while delivering a prepared statement on U.S. steel, saying Canadian supply management is putting U.S. dairy farmers out of business.
Though Trump stopped short of announcing any potential regulations or tariffs against Canadian dairy, he hinted on Tuesday morning that the issue is high on his agenda.
READ MORE: Does Canada subsidize softwood lumber?
“Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!” he wrote in one of his first tweets of the day.
Meanwhile, the president has also indicated Canada’s energy sector has grabbed his attention and could end up on the negotiation table.
“What happened to our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and New York State, we’re not going to let it happen,” Trump said last week.
“We can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers. And again I want to also just mention: included in there is lumber, timber and energy.”
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said will he always defend Canada’s interest and believes the country’s approach works for dairy farmers.
While the Trump administration has said nothing further about the energy file, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley struck a defence yesterday while on a trade mission in China.
The premier admitted she had no idea what Trump meant when he included energy with other his other trade grievances, but assured the president he’d run into unhappy supporters if he looks to impose trade sanctions on Canadian energy – including oil from Alberta’s oil sands, which is a leading source of America’s energy supply.
Notley said there would be significant cost increases for a number of players in the U.S. if Trump slapped a border adjustment tax on Canadian energy.
All of this trade talk from south of the border is in the context of imminent renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has long called a disaster for his country.
While it’s still unknown what items will be up for negotiation once NAFTA talks get going – Congress has yet to receive the required 90-day notice before talks can begin – some other industries aside from dairy, energy and lumber have been expressing concern.
WATCH: Donald Trump slams Canada on trade again
Earlier this year, Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said automakers were coming to him with concerns about the potential impacts of Trump’s much talked about, though as yet not materialized, border tax.
The auto industry also came up Tuesday morning when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was speaking to employees at a Kitchener, Ont., software company.
Trudeau said that although Canada’s economy is deeply connected with that of the U.S., the opposite is also true — that the Canada-U.S. relationship is bigger than any one trade irritant, and that both countries would suffer from a “thickening” border.
Millions of good U.S. jobs depend on Canadian trade, he said, specifically citing the North American auto sector as one compelling example.
WATCH: Unpacking the politics of tough trade talks between Canada and the U.S.
During the question and answer session on Tuesday, Trudeau also said the friendly nature of the relationship between Canada and the U.S. means both sides will be able to work through any disputes that arise, such as those currently brewing on softwood lumber and dairy products.
Meanwhile, late last month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met with several auto industry leaders in Toronto, where she said her government had been lobbying U.S. politicians to make sure they understand the extent to which American jobs in the auto sector depend on an unfettered northern border.
— With files from The Canadian Press