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Trump targets Canada, re-imposing tariffs on aluminum

Stefanik, North Country Chamber of Commerce object

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that the United States is reinstating a 10% import tax on Canadian aluminum, raising tensions with an American ally just weeks after his trade pact with Canada and Mexico took effect.

Some prominent figures in northern New York disagreed with the move, including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican who represents northern New York in Congress, and Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, based in Plattsburgh.

Trump originally imposed the tariffs on aluminum imports in 2018. He then lifted them last year on Canadian and Mexican metals to smooth the way for the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement. The USMCA took effect July 1 and was expected to bring stability to North American trade.

Instead, Trump declared Thursday that he is reimposing the tariffs on Canada. Speaking at a Whirlpool plant in Ohio, the president said that Canada had promised that “its aluminum industry would not flood our country with exports and kill all of our aluminum jobs, which is exactly what they did.”

“This is an unfortunate act of self-harm by the U.S., as past tariffs against Canada have been,” Douglas said in a public statement. “The U.S. and Canada make things together, and this directly increases costs to many of our manufacturers with cross-border supply chains that include aluminum goods. Just weeks ago, on July 1st, we implemented the new USMCA agreement as a celebration of the enormous importance of the U.S.-Canada economic partnership, and now we are already forgetting the special nature of that partnership. Hopefully, this will be short term in nature and will be reconsidered and reversed quickly.”

“I oppose the Trump administration’s decision to reinstate the 10% tariffs on imports of non-alloyed aluminum from Canada,” Stefanik said in a press release. “The United States and Canada have a strong economic partnership and trading relationship. This decision will slow the rate of our economic recovery from COVID-19, particularly for the manufacturers along the northern border in the North Country. Instead, our focus must be on working with our allies to address China’s overcapacity and the subsidized aluminum they continue to dump on the world market. I urge the administration to reverse this reinstatement so we can focus on restoring our economy while holding unfriendly nations — like China — accountable.”

Trade lawyer Daniel Ujczo with Dickinson Wright PLLC in Columbus, Ohio, predicted that Canada will retaliate with tariffs of its own — unless U.S. and Canadian negotiators can reach a truce before the tit-for-tat import taxes begin.

Ujczo said the tariffs appear designed to win Trump election year support from voters in Ohio, an industrial state. But the tactic, he said, might not work during an economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Voters here in Ohio were willing to give the president a long leash on tariffs when the economy was strong” and Trump was using the sanctions as leverage to get a North American trade deal, Ujczo said. But “the dealmaker in chief already got his win with Canada and Mexico. These folks will see it as nothing more than a political tool in a time of economic hardship.”

Aluminum imports from Canada rose sharply from February to March but have since leveled off and actually dropped 2.6% from May to June, according to the Aluminum Association trade group.

“Claims of a ‘surge’ of primary aluminum imports from Canada are simply not accurate,” said Tom Dobbins, the association’s president. He added: “Especially now, the U.S. should be focused on getting the manufacturing economy going again in the region – not picking battles with USMCA trading partners.”

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Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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