Canada has announced that it will retaliate dollar for dollar – to the tune of C$3.6bn – after the US announced a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum.
Donald Trump announced the new aluminum tariffs on Thursday at a campaign stop at a Whirlpool appliance plant in Ohio, accusing Canada of taking advantage of its trade relationship with the US.
“The aluminum business was being decimated by Canada, very unfair to our jobs and our great aluminum workers,” he said.
At a news conference on Friday, Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, called the move “unwarranted and unacceptable” and said Canada would not escalate a trade war – but that it would not back down either.
Freeland described the tariff – which would apply to unalloyed, unwrought aluminum – as an act of self-sabotage on the part of US, since it will increase the manufacturing cost and sale prices of consumer items including beer cans, appliances and cars.
“These tariffs will hurt American consumers and they will hurt American workers,” said the deputy prime minister. “Any American who buys a can of beer, a soda, a car or a bike will suffer.”
She also rebuffed the Americans’ use of a national security proviso in the country’s Trade Expansion Act to trigger the tariff.
“Canadian aluminum in no way presents a threat to US national security.” she said, adding that key US industries including defence rely on Canadian aluminum. She also said it makes the North American aluminum industry more competitive globally.
Thursday’s tariffs marked the second time the Trump administration had targeted Canadian metal. In June 2018, the US imposed a 10% tariff on aluminum, along with a 25% tariff on Canadian steel, also citing national security concerns.
The US ultimately backed away from the tariff in May 2019. The standoff on aluminum and steel was one of the last barriers standing in the way of the two countries signing the new Nafta agreement, USMCA.
This time, Freeland said Canada would spend 30 days consulting Canadian consumers and businesses about which American-made products should face tariffs. On the list of potential targets are golf clubs, bicycles, exercise equipment and washing machines – like those manufactured by Whirlpool.
Rumours about the tariff began swirling earlier this summer. In June, the Canadian auto worker union president, Jerry Dias, told CBC: “The long-term negative ramifications for Canada would be huge. But it would be equally so for the United States. All it does is gouge the American consumer.”
Freeland said the government hopes the US cancels the aluminum tariff before it takes effect 16 August.
“Common sense will prevail,” she said. “I just hope that happens sooner rather than later.”