MacNaughton still ‘confident’ steel, aluminum tariffs will be gone within weeks
Almost a month after Canada’s ambassador to the United States predicted their steep tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum would be lifted “in the next few weeks,” David MacNaughton says he still believes that will be the case.
In an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, MacNaughton pointed to comments over recent months from American politicians including Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in which they have called for a lifting of the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed on Canada and Mexico under so-called national security grounds before Congress considers ratification of the new NAFTA deal reached last year.
“I continue to be confident that they will be removed within the next few weeks,” MacNaughton said.
“It’s not just because I think we’ve done a good job of improving our relationship with the United States. These tariffs are hurting them.”
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U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a 25 per cent tariff on steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum on May 31, 2018.
He claims foreign steel and aluminum pose a “national security” threat to the U.S, which Canadian and Western leaders have widely criticized as illegitimate.
In response, Canada imposed $16.6 billion worth of retaliatory tariffs that took effect on July 1, 2018.
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Those primarily affect industries and products made in regions that constitute a home base for Trump, and MacNaughton said last month he has been getting complaints from Americans that the tariffs are hurting.
Grassley, who represents Iowa, is chair of the powerful Senate finance committee and says the tariffs are hurting farmers in his home state.
He has called publicly for the U.S. House of Representatives to hold off on considering legislation to ratify the new NAFTA deal struck last fall until the tariffs are removed.
Trump touted the tariffs as a bargaining chip in the NAFTA renegotiations, something Canadian officials repeatedly rejected under the argument that illegitimate and illegal tariffs cannot be bargained over.
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MacNaughton said calls from Grassley for tariffs to be removed before the new NAFTA deal be considered make him optimistic both that they will be removed and that the new deal can be ratified.
The Democrats in control of the House of Representatives have mused over whether they will proceed with the deal without more protections for American workers, something McNaughton said he believes they will see if already addressed in the progressive chapters of the deal.
Canadian negotiators succeeded in getting enforceable labour standards included in the new NAFTA and have provisions on gender rights, environmental protections, and Indigenous rights woven into the agreement.
MacNaughton said he believes that those will ensure the Democrats agree to support the deal.
“That’s why I think it’s going to be approved.”
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