Skip to main content

Report on Business Ottawa rejects Ontario’s call to drop retaliatory tariffs against U.S.

Ottawa dismissed a call from Ontario’s economic development minister Monday to drop retaliatory tariffs against the United States, saying doing so would mean “unilateral surrender” to the Americans.

The federal government applied tariffs on $16.6-billion worth of American imports of steel, aluminum and other products after the U.S. imposed steel and aluminum levies last year.

Ontario’s Economic Development Minister Todd Smith had said earlier on Monday that the tariffs are hurting industries and workers in both countries, and if Canada dropped its countermeasure tariffs the U.S. could drop theirs.

Story continues below advertisement

Federal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains rejected the suggestion, saying in a statement that his government has been hard at work pressuring the Americans to end the trade dispute.

“The Ford government’s call for Canada to unilaterally and unconditionally remove its counter-tariffs would equal unilateral surrender to the Americans,” Bains wrote. “The reciprocal tariffs are critical to pressuring the Americans to end this dispute once and for all.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has discussed the tariffs over the phone with U.S. President Donald Trump and Finance Minister Bill Morneau has met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Bains said the last time any Ontario official visited Washington was five months ago.

“While we’re standing up against illegal U.S. tariffs and supporting steel and aluminum workers in Ontario, Doug Ford’s government is nowhere to be seen,” Bains wrote. “We’re not aware of any efforts by the Ontario government to persuade any American leaders to drop the tariffs — no meetings, no phone calls.”

Smith noted that Premier Doug Ford met at the auto show in Detroit with car makers, who are concerned about the tariffs.

“We continue to burn up the phone lines in the U.S. to remind them that these tariffs are hurting them just as much as they’re hurting us,” he said. “Ontario is doing its part, now it’s time for the federal government to do theirs.”

Ford has suggested to the federal government that Canada’s tariffs should be dropped first, Smith said, though he admitted there is no indication doing so would lead the U.S. to in turn remove its tariffs.

Story continues below advertisement

“But clearly something has to be done,” Smith said. “These tariffs have been in place since June of last year and there’s been no movement on this.”

Smith and Quebec Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon sent a letter Monday to Morneau, calling on Ottawa to secure the permanent removal of all tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Both Algoma Steel (TSX:AGA) and the Canadian Steel Producers Association tweeted that the retaliatory measures are necessary.

The tariffs were imposed last year by the U.S., and the American commerce secretary has said they were designed to address the world’s overproduction and overcapacity of steel. The federal Liberals were criticized last fall for signing a new North American trade pact, which includes the U.S., without securing any guarantees from Washington that it would lift the levies.

Ottawa has announced a financial aid package for industries caught in the crossfire, including up to $2 billion in new funding and support for workers in steel, aluminum and manufacturing sectors.

Canada has rejected the premise of the American duties — that its metals exports pose a national-security threat to the U.S. — and has been fighting for the removal of the tariffs.

Story continues below advertisement

The United States is also coming under pressure from American automakers, aluminum producers, manufacturers and farmers to put an end to the tariff standoff.

Industry emissaries are warning that Trump’s tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum, as well as their reciprocal countermeasures, are rapidly undermining whatever benefits the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will produce once it takes effect.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter