Published: June 13, 2018
BY SHAYLA BRADLEY
Following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling “a turning point in the Canada-U.S. relationship,” Kenora Rainy River MP Bob Nault says Canada is committed to defending the interests of Canadian workers and businesses. On May 31 U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would not renew temporary exemptions for Canada from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. These duties will go into effect immediately.
Trump did not renew exemptions for several other U.S. allies along with Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland then announced $16.6 billion worth of tariffs, the value of 2017 Canadian exports affected by the U.S. move, that will be applied July 1 and will remain in place until the U.S. eliminates its measures against Canada.
“This is the largest countervail we’ve done since the Second World War,” said Nault. “It’s huge. When you countervail duties of over 16 billion dollars, that’s serious.”
Locally, he said, “I think there will be [an impact] if this goes on for a long time, because if you increase the price of steel and aluminum by 25 and 10 percent it will be passed on to the consumer.” Nault said Canada is as shocked as everybody else from the actions of the United States, “a country that is considered to be our ally and one of our best friends over many decades, shoulder to shoulder during wartime and always have had a good relationship with.”
“This is a bit shocking and disappointing that we’re now into this scenario where somehow the Trump administration thinks putting on these kinds of major tariffs will have an impact on our negotiations at NAFTA,” he said. “They seem to think it’s the objective of the exercise.”
The situation has more to do with U.S. domestic politics, Nault believes, highlighting that NAFTA and tariffs are two separate issues. “Somehow and some way the president seems to think [the U.S.] can tie that in to put pressure on Canada to change our position in some areas we have already said we have no intentions of ever going near,” he said, offering the U.S.’s proposed five-year NAFTA sunset clause as an example.
“Businesses make long term decisions on moving factories, jobs, decisions on products. They can’t live with having a renegotiation of NAFTA every five years. It doesn’t make any sense.” “I think it’s important to know we’re going to defend the interest of our workers and we’re not going to sit idly by and watch the Americans play havoc within our economy,” he said.
“That doesn’t change our day to day personal relationship with American people… but we’re going to defend the interests of our workers and our business communities. If it means we have to do more of this then we will. We’re not going to back down from our role and responsibility as a government.” He stressed that while NAFTA is being negotiated, it still exists, and a new deal would not be ratified for quite some time even if the governments had an agreement, with Mexico going to the polls in July and Americans in midterms this fall.
“I think you won’t see any real serious movement on NAFTA or the new modern version of it, whatever that looks like, until 2019 and beyond,” Nault cautioned.
“We have to remind ourselves this is a business deal and negotiation and should not be looked at as anything else other than that. Businesses want certainty and that’s what our government is trying to provide but it’s going to be a lot of work to come over the next year or so,” he said.