WASHINGTON — The union that had been happy with President Trump’s original announcement that he would level the playing field with steel tariffs today criticized the administration’s move forward because Canada is not exempted.
“The United States has reached an arrangement with South Korea on steel, which was announced on April 30. Included in today’s proclamations, the United States has reached arrangements on steel with Australia, Argentina, and Brazil, and with Australia and Argentina on aluminum,” the White House said of the 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.
“The United States was unable to reach satisfactory arrangements, however, with Canada, Mexico, or the European Union, after repeatedly delaying tariffs to allow more time for discussions,” the statement added. The tariffs go into effect at midnight.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted the decision as “a turning point in the Canada-U.S. relationship.”
In retaliation, beginning July 1 Canada is set to slap a 10 to 25 percent charge on more than $16 billion worth of imported steel, aluminum, and other products from the United States, including some coffee, pizza, chocolate, toilet paper, jam, ketchup, mattresses, beer kegs, whisky, motorboats, pens, cucumbers, licorice, quiche, yogurt, mayonnaise, playing cards and maple syrup.
Those tariffs will stay in place until the Trump administration backs down on steel and aluminum, according to the Canadian government.
Trudeau called Trump’s tariffs “an affront to the long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States, and in particular, to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside American comrades-in-arms.”
“Americans remain our partners, our allies, and our friends,” he said at a news conference. “This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the U.S. administration.”
Sales of steel and aluminum in Canada amount to some $26 billion a year. More than 80 percent of the country’s aluminum exports currently go to the U.S.
Trump simply tweeted today, “FAIR TRADE!”
But the United Steelworkers, which applauded Trump on his original announcement of the intended tariffs at the beginning of March, said today that the decision to strip Canada’s exemption is “unacceptable and calls into serious question the design and direction of the administration’s trade policy.”
“The decision not to exempt Canada ignores the fact that Canada’s steel and aluminum exports to the United States are fairly traded and that Canada has shown its willingness to strengthen its laws as well as its cooperation with the United States to fight unfair trade,” the union said in a statement. “From the early days of the administration, the USW has worked with trade officials to develop, design and deploy trade policies that will strengthen our manufacturing base, increase employment and enhance our national security.”
“But, in recent days, it has become increasingly difficult to understand the reasoning behind certain decisions and policies. The regular chaos surrounding our flawed trade policies is undermining the ability to project a reasoned course and ensure that we can improve domestic production and employment. Today’s decision is wrongheaded and erodes the certainty companies need to conduct operations and invest in the future,” USW continued.
“So far, the administration’s trade policies have led to confusion, higher trade deficits and no real success in changing the practices of our trading partners. Ultimately, the goal is not a tariff barrier, but a stronger America. It’s time to ensure that we’re on the right path.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement disagreeing with the tariff decision. “Instead of addressing the real problems in the international trade of these products, today’s action targets America’s allies when we should be working with them to address the unfair trading practices of countries like China,” Ryan said. “There are better ways to help American workers and consumers. I intend to keep working with the president on those better options.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called the move “a big mistake.” Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) said slapping tariffs on key allies “not only runs counter to our global efforts and harms our trade relationships, but also hurts American businesses, workers, and consumers who rely on these imports.”
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