Free­land calls tar­iffs ‘ab­surd’

For­eign af­fairs min­is­ter re­it­er­ates Canada’s stance at U.S. Sen­ate meet­ing

The Beacon Herald - - NATIONAL NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land ven­tured Wed­nes­day into the heart of the U.S. Capi­tol, where she de­nounced the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s steel and alu­minum tar­iffs as ab­surd.

Free­land re­it­er­ated Canada’s op­po­si­tion to the tar­iffs af­ter meet­ing with the in­flu­en­tial U.S. Sen­ate for­eign re­la­tions com­mit­tee in Wash­ing­ton.

She was the first Cana­dian politi­cian to set foot in the Amer­i­can cap­i­tal af­ter U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his emis­saries launched un­prece­dented per­sonal at­tacks on Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau fol­low­ing the week­end G7 sum­mit in Que­bec.

The min­is­ter stayed above the fray on those at­tacks, but she did not hes­i­tate to re­peat Canada’s op­po­si­tion to the tar­iffs in the bluntest of terms — in par­tic­u­lar the use of sec­tion 232 of U.S. trade law to jus­tify the ac­tion on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds.

“The sec­tion 232 ac­tion — which is, let me re­mind peo­ple, a na­tional se­cu­rity con­sid­er­a­tion — is frankly ab­surd,” Free­land said.

“The no­tion that Cana­dian steel and alu­minum could pose a na­tional se­cu­rity threat to the United States — I think Amer­i­cans un­der­stand it’s sim­ply not the case. That ac­tion is also il­le­gal un­der the WTO and NAFTA rules.”

The ma­jor­ity of U.S. sen­a­tors agree with that view, said the com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­can chair, Sen. Bob Corker.

“I do think it’s an abuse of pres­i­den­tial author­ity to use the 232 waiver, and I’ve tried to pass a piece of leg­is­la­tion on the floor to counter that,” Corker said af­ter the meet­ing with Free­land.

He is try­ing to gather sup­port for leg­is­la­tion that would give U.S. Congress, not the pres­i­dent, the author­ity to im­pose tar­iffs un­der the na­tional se­cu­rity clause of U.S. trade law.

Corker isn’t seek­ing re-elec­tion in this fall’s U.S. midterm elec­tions and has railed against his fel­low sen­a­tors who are headed to the polls and wor­ried about their elec­toral suc­cess for not stand­ing up to Trump pub­licly.

Corker said there’s no ques­tion Trump has dam­aged re­la­tions with Canada, but he hoped cooler heads would pre­vail.

“Canada is not a coun­try that we have trade is­sues with,” he said.

Canada and its al­lies plan to im­pose re­tal­ia­tory du­ties by the end of the month on a broad range of con­sumer goods. The Trudeau govern­ment has pro­posed a $16.6-bil­lion tar­iff pack­age, in re­tal­i­a­tion for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to im­pose 25 per cent import du­ties on steel and 10 per cent on alu­minum.

Free­land said Canada was re­spond­ing in sor­row rather than anger but that the govern­ment would re­spond dol­lar-for-dol­lar to the U.S. tar­iffs.

Trudeau in­curred Trump’s Twit­ter wrath when he re­it­er­ated Canada’s op­po­si­tion to the tar­iffs at the end of the G7 sum­mit.

Public Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale told the Fox News busi­ness show Var­ney & Co. on Wed­nes­day that Canada’s ap­proach fol­low­ing the week­end’s drama was to “stay calm, stay fo­cused, carry on, build the re­la­tion­ship and make sure we’re de­fend­ing Cana­di­ans’ rights and in­ter­ests.”

Goodale said the U.S. has a trade sur­plus in steel with Canada. De­spite the dis­pute over the tar­iffs, he said Canada still wants to make a deal to re­solve the rene­go­ti­a­tion of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

Free­land was ex­pected to give a ma­jor for­eign pol­icy speech later Wed­nes­day.

On Thurs­day, she is ex­pected to meet U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer in an ef­fort to keep the NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion on the rails.

Canada and the U.S. ap­pear to be at an im­passe over Trump’s in­sis­tence on a five-year sun­set clause, some­thing Trudeau him­self said this past week­end was a non-starter.

The Cana­dian Press

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land speaks with re­porters af­ter meet­ing with the U.S. Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee at the Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton.

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