Bill Morneau will be expressing Canada’s strong objections to new U.S. tariffs when he meets directly with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during closed-door G7 meetings this week.
Canada’s Finance Minister acknowledged the U.S. decision to impose punitive new tariffs on Canadian, European and Mexican imports − over what it cited as national security concerns − has effectively taken over the agenda of this week’s summit of Group of Seven finance ministers, development ministers and central bankers in Whistler, B.C.
“I have a strong relationship with Steven Mnuchin. We’ve worked together over the course of the time that we’ve been in office, but among friends sometimes there are disagreements,” Mr. Morneau said on Thursday.
“I’ll be stating very clearly our disagreement with the action they’ve taken. We think it’s absurd that Canada is considered in any way a security risk, so that will be very clearly stated by me and [there is] every expectation that our other allies around the table will express the same sentiment. With that, we’ll try to move forward in a way to encourage them to reconsider.”
News of new U.S. tariffs hit just as key leaders from the Group of Seven − a group of the world’s most developed countries − were addressing a public panel on the side-lines of the official ministerial meetings.
International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde lashed out Thursday at the American decision to impose punitive tariffs.
“If trade is massively disrupted … those who will suffer most are the poorest,” she warned.
Ms. Lagarde, a leading international voice for trade liberalization, called on citizens and business leaders around the world to push back against the new tariffs. She noted that protectionist measures make basic goods more expensive, creating an immediate and direct impact on consumers and businesses.
“I know that asking civil society to engage in supporting globalization seems the ultimate anathema, but it doesn’t have to defend the current globalization as it is,” she said.
Senior Canadian officials are working behind the scenes in Whistler to reach a consensus agreement for G7 leaders to announce at next week’s leaders’ summit in Quebec’s Charlevoix region. But the U.S. tariff move is creating a high level of tension within a group that is normally consistent in promoting free trade.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney also expressed his concern and said it will clearly be on the agenda as finance ministers and central bankers talk behind closed doors this week.
“This focus on goods’ trades and bilateral goods’ imbalances is not the right focus, if you will, for a hyperconnected world,” Mr. Carney said when asked to react to the new U.S. tariffs. “Obviously the authorities here, the ministers who have direct responsibilities and the leaders who have direct responsibilities have to try to resolve this.”
The Treasury Secretary is not directly responsible for U.S. trade policy, but it will be up to Mr. Mnuchin to respond in Whistler to the strong negative reaction Washington’s actions have quickly garnered.
Former Canadian prime minister and finance minister Paul Martin, who is also in Whistler, said the G7 must react to the growing “navel-gazing nationalism” that is fuelling tariffs as well as anti-immigration sentiment in several parts of the world.
“Facing up to the rise of counterproductive nationalism is a major issue that the G7 cannot avoid,” he said.
Mr. Martin, a veteran of many G7 summits, predicted the U.S. trade moves will make for a lively discussion behind the scenes in Whistler.
“You can’t help but think that, in fact, calmer heads are going to prevail at this particular meeting,” he said. “[Friday] is going to be a lot of fun.”