Freeland tells Trade Committee that steel and aluminum “support package” is coming

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the Canadian government is working on a support package for this country’s steel and aluminum industries in light of stiff American import tariffs.

In testimony in front of the House of Commons trade committee Tuesday, Freeland acknowledged direct support for workers was needed. The minister was joined by senior department officials, including Canada’s Chief NAFTA Negotiator Steve Verheul.

“It is absolutely the case that our steel and aluminum…industries need our support,” she said, noting Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Industry Minister NavDeep Bains are “working on ways” to support the two sectors.

Canada and the United States are embroiled in an escalating trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump has publicly criticized Canadian trade practices.

The Trump administration imposed a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum products effective June 1, citing national security reasons. Canada, one of the United States’ largest suppliers of steel, has vehemently rejected that argument.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Canadians of buying products south of the border, then sneaking them back home — all because of what he calls “massive” tariffs on American goods.

Trump, speaking to small business owners in Washington, is railing again against the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying the U.S. can no longer afford to be the “stupid country.”

He says Canada imposes such onerous tariffs on U.S. products — shoes, for instance — that people are forced to “scuff ’em up” in order to “smuggle” them home.

Trump said he’s looking out for American farmers and manufacturers, and again took issue with Canada’s supply management system for dairy farmers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the steel and aluminum tariffs “absurd” and has insisted Canada will “not be pushed around.” The Canadian government has also challenged the tariffs at the World Trade Organization and under NAFTA.

The Department of Finance released a lengthy list of American goods at the end of May following Washington’s steel and aluminum tariff announcement. The items listed would be hit with Canadian retaliatory tariffs valued at $16.6 billion. Products listed include goods like steel, aluminum, whiskies, gherkin pickles, mattresses and yogurt.

That list was subject to a 15-day consultation period. Freeland told MPs the department received 1,108 submissions from industry, the provinces and workers. The consultations, she said, were useful and Canada’s preliminary list will likely be amended to reflect the feedback received.

The Trump administration has also threatened to impose similar national security justified tariffs on the Canadian auto sector.

Freeland told the trade committee that should the Trump administration impose those tariffs, Canada is ready and that their response would be similar to the one issued following the steel and tariff announcement.

A Conservative demand for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Canada’s trading relationship with the United States was rejected Tuesday by House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan.