Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland unloaded during an interview with CNN, lashing out at steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the U.S. and the Trump administration’s claim that Canada poses as a national security threat.
During an interview with CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Freeland warned about the message the U.S. is sending as a result of trade tensions between neighbouring countries.
“I think what is important for Americans to understand is the justification under your rules for the imposition of these tariffs was a national security consideration. So, what you’re saying to us and to all of your NATO allies is that we somehow represent a national security threat to the United States,” the foreign affairs minister said. “And I would just say to all of Canada’s American friends … Seriously?”
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration announced that there would be a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum imports, including products from Canada.
Trump had imposed the tariffs earlier this year, saying his country had been treated “badly” in trade relations. Canada, Mexico and the European Union were originally exempted from import duties, but those exemptions were set to expire Friday.
At the time, Trump also cited national security reasons for the tariffs.
“Do you really believe that Canada, that your NATO allies, represent a national security threat to you?” Freeland said. “That’s why the prime minister said it is frankly insulting.”
Canada responded by imposing $16-billion worth of tariffs on the U.S.
During an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the hefty tariffs “insulting” while addressing Trump’s claim Canada is a national security threat.
“One of the things I have to admit I’m having a lot of trouble getting around is that this whole thing has come about because the president and the administration has decided that Canada — Canadian steel and aluminum — is a national security threat to the United States,” Trudeau said.
“First of all, the idea that our soldiers, who fought and died together on the beaches of World War II, in the mountains of Afghanistan, and have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in some of the most difficult places in the world, … this is insulting to them.”
On Sunday, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow described to Fox News the rift between Canada and the U.S. as “more of a family quarrel.”
“I don’t think our tariffs are anything to do with our friendship and our longstanding alliance with Canada,” Kudlow said.
During Freeland’s CNN interview, the foreign affairs minister refused to call the rift a “trade war.”
“A word that I would not use to describe it is a trade discussion,” Freeland said. “That is to minimize something very, very serious. This is not just about words, this is about actions and it’s about actions that will hurt everyone.”
Freeland added that it’s “a very grave difference between closest allies.”
“Part of the issue here is, it’s allegedly not even about trade … This is allegedly about a national security consideration,” Freeland said. “I would say it’s a very grave difference between the closest allies of the United States and the U.S. around both national security and the global economy and the rules for the global economy.”
— with files from Rebecca Joseph