With the end of Canada’s temporary respite from the Trump administration’s blanket 10-percent tariffs on imported aluminium only hours away, officials in Ottawa are making it clear that the government will strike back should the administration choose to follow through with the promised levies.
After emerging with a two-hour meeting with in Washington, D.C. with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Tuesday that it is ready to go to the mat for the dominion’s aluminium industry.
“Our government always is very ready and very prepared to respond appropriately to every action. We are always prepared and ready to defend our workers and our industry,” she promised.
Canada was initially exempted from the tariffs on steel and aluminium when first announced in early March, and the Trump administration extended the exemption through to June 1 in order to provide time for trade negotiators to reach an accord. However, no such agreement has been forthcoming to date.
Despite administration officials’ characterization of the exemption as “final,” United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross implied in the past that another extension may be in the cards should NAFTA negotiations be positive.
This idea did not sit well with Canadian officials. Freeland indicated that tariffs are “entirely separate from the NAFTA negotiation,” opining that applying protections against Canada over national security fears “just doesn’t make sense.”
In contrast to the Trump administration’s mixed signals on the issue, Freeland has maintained a consistency in her public statements regarding its stance against the tariffs. In March she went on record promising that Ottawa would not hesitate to take “measures to defend its trade interests and workers.”
Freeland will be in D.C. for two days this week on an errand to promote Canada’s interests in NAFTA negotiations regarding proposed changes in provisions relating to automotive manufacturing.