In a tweet Friday morning, President Donald Trump hit back at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complaints about American tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States from Canada.
In the tweet, Trump noted Canada’s high levels of protectionism on agriculture and said that trade barriers would come down only if Americans got a fair deal out of our neighbors to the north.
On Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the 25 percent tariffs on aluminum and 10 percent tariffs on steel would be placed on Canada, Mexico and the European Union at midnight. While those three entities had been given reprieves when the tariffs were first announced, according to CNBC, the exemptions expired Friday and the administration apparently had not gotten the response it wanted from any of the three.
Trump wrote that he supported Ross’ “finding that steel mill articles are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States.”
“The United States has been taken advantage of for many decades on trade,” Trump said Thursday. “Those days are over. Earlier today, this message was conveyed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada: The United States will agree to a fair deal, or there will be no deal at all.”
In response, Prime Minister Trudeau was the same Trudeau we’ve come to know and … well, let’s just leave it at that.
“We have to believe that at some point, common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the U.S. administration,” Trudeau said in response.
His country also announced retaliatory tariffs aimed at American aluminum, steel and other products.
So, of course, Trump put Trudeau on blast using his favorite medium.
“Canada has treated our Agricultural business and Farmers very poorly for a very long period of time,” Trump tweeted Friday morning. “Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us. Do Timber & Lumber in U.S.?”
While one questions whether a trade war with Canuckistan is really worth the hit to the American economy, it’s worth noting that Trump isn’t without a point here. While Trudeau and his fellow Canadians may talk a good game on free trade, our neighbors to the north have some serious protectionist issues of its own, particularly in the aforementioned arena of agriculture.
One of the biggest areas of contention in NAFTA negotiations, as noted by Maclean’s earlier this year, is Canada’s protectionist regime to help their dairy, milk and egg producers.
“Supply management is a set of government-imposed production quotas and structured prices to limit domestic supply while impeding consumer access to foreign imports through high tariffs,” they reported. “The outcome is reduced choice and higher prices for consumers, and higher revenues for producers.”
This is mostly to protect a group of just over 13,000 agricultural producers in the country, which also hurts Canada’s poor by dramatically raising the prices on basic food items. The Globe and Mail estimated those tariffs at 247 percent on average in spite of the fact that Canada is a net exporter of food. Compare that with 4.1 percent for Australia, New Zealand and Chile — other net food exporters.
We would have to believe that, at some point, common sense would prevail in Canada.
However, we’ve seen consecutive governments formed by Canada’s two major political parties — Conservative and Liberal — continue on the same path. We see no sign of that in any action by any Canadian administration — and that’s what Trump is calling them out on.