Canada will retaliate within days against American aluminum tariffs, with plans to announce a series of counter-tariffs early next week.
Officials in Ottawa and at the Canadian embassy in Washington confirmed previously threatened counter-tariffs will proceed by Wednesday.
The government had said during the summer that unless the U.S. dropped its latest round of aluminum tariffs, Canada would impose $3.6 billion in countermeasures by then.
The Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, said in an interview Friday that the move is imminent.
“Absent any change in [the U.S.] policy, they will take effect next week,” the ambassador said.
“And they will remain in effect until the U.S. eliminates its tariffs against Canada.”
Canada is responding to a 10 per cent tariff announced by President Donald Trump in August, a move that struck just over half of Canada’s aluminum exports to the U.S.
The Trudeau government will reveal its choice of U.S. targets from a preliminary list published in August of more than five dozen potentials.
The government has said it will keep those targets limited to aluminum products, in order to respect a 2019 agreement with the U.S.
The preliminary list included a disproportionate number of products from U.S. swing states that will determine Trump’s fate in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
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A Canada-U.S. trade consultant who used to work for the Canadian government says political calculations clearly play a role in tariff strategy.
“There’s a number of considerations,” said Eric Miller of the Washington firm Rideau Potomac Strategy Group. “One is: How do we not hurt ourselves? Two: How do we persuade [Americans] to remove them?”
But, he said, counter-tariffs are not about trying to damage Trump in swing states, so much as an effort to get the attention of other candidates seeking office in those electorally fertile states.
“They want people running for office to get on the phone [and advocate for removing tariffs],” Miller said.
“That’s really the calculation … It’s not about [hurting] Trump per se.”
Other observers have expressed skepticism there’s any chance the Trump administration might be persuaded to back down on tariffs this close to an election.
Last time Canadian metals faced tariffs it took many months of pressure to get them removed, and it required timely help from powerful U.S. congressional allies, like the Republican chair of the Senate finance committee, Chuck Grassley.
Grassley had threatened to stall Trump’s signature trade agreement — the new NAFTA — unless the tariffs were removed.
“I’m calling on the Administration – specifically, President Trump – to promptly remove Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. This will help clear the path for the U.S.M.C.A. agreement…” –<a href=”https://twitter.com/ChuckGrassley?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ChuckGrassley</a> <a href=”https://t.co/vdClgyl9yZ”>pic.twitter.com/vdClgyl9yZ</a>
That led to the 2019 agreement — which ended across-the-board U.S. tariffs on a wide range of steel and aluminum products.
It also set limits on similar disputes in the future.
The agreement says any future retaliation must target only a metal that’s in dispute, and not expand the fight to other sectors like farm goods — such as the corn in Grassley’s home state of Iowa.
Hillman says the goal of this week’s announcement is to create some political pressure so that the U.S. might drop its tariffs.
“Our objective is to have the strongest possible impact on the United States — while minimizing the impact on Canadians,” she said.
“We are trying to demonstrate to Americans that this is the wrong path. That’s how we’ll make our choices as to what to put on that list.”