In a letter dated June 18 to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Perrin Beatty — along with nine heads of provincial Chambers of Commerce — wrote to express “support for the government’s efforts to defend Canadian interests in the face of unprecedented trade actions by the United States government.”
The U.S. announced May 31 that it would impose its Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada (as well as Mexico and the European Union), ending the temporary exemption for the country from the duties.
Canada was the world’s 19th-largest steel exporter last year. In 2017, 90% of Canada’s steel exports went to the U.S. (the second-largest export market, Mexico, came in at 7%).
“We fully support the government’s firm position that steel and aluminum exports from Canada do not pose a national security threat to the U.S. Our members are on the front lines of the cross-border supply chains that help drive the Canadian and American economies and support mutual national security through our joint defence industrial base,” the letter reads.
In the letter, Beatty supported the “dismantling of trade barriers,” while arguing the U.S. tariffs have forced Canada’s hand.
“However, the American government’s actions leave our country no choice but to respond in a fashion designed to encourage the withdrawal of U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs at the earliest possible opportunity,” the letter reads. “We urge the government to maintain an open dialogue with Canadian businesses to ensure that any unintended consequences for companies and workers are mitigated, particularly in those sectors that are most trade-dependent.”
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the U.S. had a $4.55 billion deficit in goods with Canada through the first four months of 2018. The U.S. had a $17.05 billion deficit with Canada in 2017.
“Despite the unprecedented environment created by the U.S. government’s actions, we fully support the government’s continued efforts to achieve a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement,” the letter concludes. “Canadian negotiators should remain at the table and not allow the illegal and unjustified U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs to derail negotiations for an agreement that meets 21st century business needs.”
The other signatories to the letter, all presidents of their respective Chambers of Commerce, were (province in parentheses): Ken Kolby (Alberta), Trevor Wever (Northwest Territories), Sheri Somerville (Atlantic), Rocco Rossi (Ontario), Val Litwin (British Columbia), Steve McLellan (Saskatchewan), Stephane Forget (Quebec), Peter Merrick Turner (Yukon) and Chuck Davidson (Manitoba).
Speaking of Chambers of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week panned the U.S. announcement on tariffs to be placed on Chinese imports.
“Imposing tariffs places the cost of China’s unfair trade practices squarely on the shoulders of American consumers, manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a prepared statement on the Chamber’s website. “This is not the right approach.”