Ottawa is cooperating with politicians and businesses in the United States to make President Donald Trump scrap tariffs on its steel and aluminum, said Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum were rolled out by Washington in May, with Trump citing national security.
“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,” Trudeau said during a televised question-and-answer session.
Asked why he had signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (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.” He added that the government was trying to change Trump’s mind as the US prepared to start the ratification of the pact.
The new trilateral trade deal, which was sealed in November, replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Trump, who repeatedly branded NAFTA as the “worst trade deal ever made,” maintained that the US has been unfairly treated in trade with its neighboring and oversees partners. He imposed a 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum imports from Mexico, Canada and the EU.
Trudeau has called the US levies “totally unacceptable” and an “affront” to Canada, warning that a trade war would harm the economies of both countries. Ottawa introduced retaliatory taxes on US imports of steel, aluminum and goods such as whiskey, orange juice and other food products.
Canada and Mexico are the second and third-biggest US trading partners, each accounting for more than $500 billion in trade per year, almost rivaling China and the 28 EU member states combined. Canada sends 75 percent of all its goods exports to the US.
A Canadian source told Reuters that Trudeau and Trump discussed the tariffs on Monday but no talks on lifting the sanctions are planned.
US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said this week the measures would have to be lifted in order to get agricultural interests to support congressional approval for the USMCA.
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