Prime Minister Trudeau responds to steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the United States
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada): Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us.
Today we find ourselves the target of punitive tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel under pretext of a 232 national security provision. Let me be clear: These tariffs are totally unacceptable. For 150 years, Canada has been United States’s most steadfast ally.
Let’s be clear, these tariffs are unacceptable. Over the past 150 years, Canada has been the United States’ most steadfast partner. Canadians and Americans fought shoulder to shoulder with one another in two World Wars and in Korea. From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, we have fought together and mourned our fallen together. And the Canadian Forces are serving alongside the Americans at this very moment. We are partners in NORAD, in NATO and all over the world. We came to the defence of the United States after 9/11, just as the Americans have come to our defence in the past, and together we are fighting Daesh in Northern Iraq.
The numbers are clear: The United States has a $2 billion US dollars surplus in steel trade with Canada – and Canada buys more American steel than any other country in the world; indeed we account for half of U.S. exports… U.S. steel exports. Canada is a secure supplier of aluminum and steel to the U.S. defence industry, putting aluminum in American planes and steel in American tanks. That Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States is inconceivable.
These tariffs will harm industry and workers on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, disrupting linked supply chains that have made North American steel and aluminum more competitive all around the world.
Beyond that, these tariffs are an affront to the long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States, and in particular, an affront to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside their American brothers-in-arms… comrades-in-arms.
The ties of commerce, friendship and, in many cases, family between Americans and Canadians are undiminished – indeed, they have never been stronger. The Government of Canada is confident that shared values, geography, and common interests will ultimately overcome protectionism. As we have consistently said, we will always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests.
Minister Freeland is here to outline our retaliatory measures. This morning, I called the Opposition leaders to inform them of our response.
In closing, I want to be very clear about one thing: Americans remain our partners, our allies, and our friends. This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the US administration.
HON. CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Thank you Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister has said, these tariffs are totally unacceptable.
In response to these measures, Canada intends to impose surcharges or other similar trade-restrictive measures against imports of steel, aluminum and other products from the United States up to a value of $6.6 billion. This amount represents the total 2017 Canadian exports of steel and aluminum to the United States. These exports now being affected by the U.S. tariffs.
We are today publishing two lists of goods subject to countermeasures. The goods on the first list will be subject to a 25% tariff, the second list will be subject to a 10% tariff. These counter-measures will only apply to goods originating from the United States. These counter-measures will take effect on July 1, 2018, and will remain in place until the United States eliminates its tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium products.
Our steel and aluminum workers have our support.That is why we have included American steel and aluminum products in our list, and as for the other products listed today, we have ensured that these can be easily sourced from Canadian companies or non-U.S. trade partners in an effort to avoid any costs being passed onto Canadian families and consumers. We are today beginning a 15-day consultation period with Canadians so that they may express their support for, or concerns about the proposed countermeasures and the list of goods.
These lists of goods will be made available publicly immediately, including online for all Canadians. The unilateral trade restrictions for… by the United States are also in violation of NAFTA and WTO trade rules. Canada will therefore launch dispute settlement proceedings under NAFTA Chapter 20 and WTO dispute settlement. Canada will also closely collaborate with like-minded WTO members, including the European Union to challenge these illegal and counterproductive U.S. measures at the WTO.
It is entirely inappropriate to view any trade with Canada as a national security threat to the United States, and I want Canadians to know that their government will always stand up for Canadian workers and Canadian businesses. Thank you.
Now I’m going to say it in English. We are a bilingual country.
In response to these measures, Canada intends to impose tariffs against imports of steel, aluminum and other products from the United States representing the total value of 2017 Canadian exports affected by the U.S. measures. That is $16.6 billion. We are imposing dollar-for-dollar tariffs for every dollar levied against Canadians by the U.S; 25% and 10% are the tariff rates today imposed by the United States on Canada. We are today publishing two lists of goods. One list which will be subject to a 25% tariff, the second list will be subject to a 10% tariff.
These counter-measures will only apply to goods originating from the United States. These counter-measures will take effect on July 1, 2018. They will remain in place until the United States eliminates its trade-restrictive measures against Canada.
Our steel and aluminum workers have our government’s full support. That is why we have included American steel and aluminum products in our list. As for the other products listed today, we have ensured that these can be easily sourced from Canadian companies or non-U.S. trade partners in an effort to avoid any costs being passed onto Canadian families and consumers.
We are today beginning a 15-day consultation period with Canadians so that they may express their support for, or concerns about the proposed countermeasures and the list of goods. These lists of goods will be made available publicly immediately, including online for all Canadians.
The unilateral trade restrictions by the United States are also in violation of NAFTA and WTO trade rules. Canada will therefore launch dispute settlement proceedings under NAFTA Chapter 20 and WTO dispute settlement. Canada will also closely collaborate with like-minded WTO members, including the European Union to challenge these illegal and counterproductive U.S. measures at the WTO. It is entirely inappropriate to view any trade with Canada as a national security threat to the United States, as the Prime Minister has explained.
I want Canadians to know that our government will always stand up for Canadian workers and Canadian businesses. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you. First question. Radio-Canada.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Trudeau, it seems clear that your strategy of the past several months is in pretty bad shape. Now, with the measures you’ve just announced, are you starting a trade war with the United States?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada): First of all, we’ve been saying for a long time that we were prepared for anything. We are, we have always worked constructively with the Americans, but we have also emphasized that we had ideas about how we were going to be able to defend Canadian workers and Canada, if it came to that. So even though we are continuing to work, to negotiate, to try to convince the Americans to walk back these unacceptable measures, we also have to respond firmly to these threats that have been imposed on us.
QUESTION: But regarding the trade war, are we entering into a trade war at this time, or do you still trust Mr. Trump? You were saying, I respect his, I take him at his word and there won’t be any tariffs, it was Anderson Cooper, and well, clearly, there are tariffs.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, obviously, we’ve been engaging with the U.S. for a long time now in many ways. Whether it’s me directly with Mr. Trump, whether it’s Chrystia Freeland and the other ministers who are engaging with each other, whether it’s the provincial premiers who are engaged, the leaders of the opposition, Canadian businesspeople, we are continually engaged in exerting pressure and pointing out to the Americans just how a bad an idea it is to set up tariff or other barriers with Canada. Today’s decision is entirely on the U.S. administration. It was their choice to start imposing this, these unacceptable measures, and so we are responding in the way I always told Mr. Trump very clearly we would, that we were always going to stand up and defend the interests of Canadians and Canadian workers.
MODERATOR: Joyce Napier, CTV.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. So since NAFTA negotiations began, you launched a diplomatic blitz in the United States, you’ve been there, what, 15, 16 times, Minister Freeland, I don’t know, may a hundred, and your surrogates were there and you make nice with the White House and you went all over the United States; is it time to change the Canadian strategy?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: It’s very clear that we’ve said, and I’ve been saying directly to Canadians for a number of months now that we have to be prepared for anything, and we have been. We have always chosen to try and be positive and constructive but at the same time in my conversations with the President and Canadians’ conversations with their American friends, colleagues and counterparts, the message has been very clear: that Canadians stand united, that Canadians are firm about standing up for Canada’s interests. The American administration has made a decision today that we deplore, and obviously is going to lead to retaliatory measures as it must, but we regret that. We would much rather move together in partnership, understanding that no two countries have economies as interwoven and mutually beneficial as Canada and the United States.
QUESTION: You’re hosting the G7 in a week and Mr. Trump will be there, the American… the European allies, the EU will be there so… are you… how is this going to work out?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Obviously we have done a lot of work to pull people together around common and shared themes at the G7, whether it’s protecting our oceans or empowering women to be more successful in the workforce, or addressing the economic challenges that happen at home and around the world. Every single G7 country is facing a similar challenge of demonstrating that growth can work for everyone. In Canada we talk about growth for the middle class and those working hard to join it, but that is a similar challenge and responsibility for each and every one of our elected G7 colleagues. That approach is one that we’re going to continue to emphasize. The choices made by the United States administration today, have a goal of benefitting the American workers. Unfortunately, we all know that this is going to lead to harm for American workers and American industries.
Our economies are too interlinked to not have significant disruption in American families, in American communities south of the border. We are going to continue to highlight that working together as friends and allies is extremely important for the prosperity of each of our citizens. Indeed, when you look at what the United States has chosen to do to its closest friends and allies, and G7 nations, European allies, Canada, and Mexico, it shows that we need to have an opportunity to come together to discuss this directly and firmly and look for opportunities to benefit our citizens, not to harm them.
MODERATOR: Raymond Filion, TVA
QUESTION: How would you describe the attitude of the Trump administration?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: The administration’s approach and I had conversations with the president and the vice-president this week to emphasize that they are... their approach is based on an ideology that wants to help Americans, but which… they do not completely understand. Not completely, because it will hurt Americans. It will harm workers, harm their industries. We spent one year highlighting to what extent the connectivity and connections between our two economies benefit the citizens of both of our countries. Now, unfortunately, I think that they will discover that they cannot take measures like that.
QUESTION: Are they saying today that it is your failure?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I think that people are well aware that it is a decision made by and for the American administration. Our approach, my approach, the approach of my team and of all Canadians has been to work together. I would again like to thank all the premiers of the provinces. All the MPs of all the parties have shown that Canada takes a firm and united stand regarding these negotiations and our commitment with the United States. I think that people are well aware that the U.S. president decided to make this decision today despite all of our efforts.
MODERATOR: John Ivison, National Post.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, is Mr. Trump going to be in Charlevoix?
RT HON. JUSTN TRUDEAU: Yes, all indications are that he will be.
QUESTION: There’s a similar national security investigation going on into the import of autos, and the finding of the steel and aluminum would suggest this is going to go against Canada too. What’s your response to that?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, we’re going to deal with this one today and deal with next steps when and if they come, but as I’ve highlighted many times, the argument that Canadian steel that is in American armoured cars and Canadian aluminum that is in American fighter jets could somehow be a national security risk becomes even more absurd when one tries to apply it to cars or car parts made in Canada. We will continue to make arguments based on logic and common sense and hope that eventually they will prevail against an administration that doesn’t always align itself around those principles.
MODERATOR: Katie Simpson, CBC.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, when Donald Trump took office, you made a conscious effort to take the high road, where we saw some European leaders not necessarily take that road, but at the end of the day, you and the Europeans are in the same mess together. Has your strategy handling Donald Trump worked?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I think we all know that the relationship between Canada and the United States is a deep and complex one, and engagement and thoughtful approaches combined with the unity and the strength of the team approach that Canada has highlighted... I’ve heard many times from American interlocutors from the president himself that the fact that we are firm and united as a country in our engagement with the United States beyond political ideologies here at home has been a strength in our approach, and we are going to continue to stay united in this moment.
I know Canadians will be there for one another. We will do things to stand together and stand up for our interests right across the country. That’s what they expect of this government, but that’s also what we expect of each other.
QUESTION: In your comments, and my colleagues will correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think you have said Donald Trump’s name, and it takes, it still takes a month for these tariffs to kick in. Are you taking a firm enough line? We’ve heard Kathleen Wynne describe Donald Trump as a bully. Do you agree with that assessment and is this enough?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I’ve been very clear that my interactions with President Trump have been clear and firm. We have always, and indeed he has always understood that I will and do stand up for Canadian interests and Canadian workers and Canadian citizens. This is something that we will always do. I’ve made it very clear to President Trump, to Donald Trump, to Mr. Trump, and I’ll say it as many different ways and times as you’d like, that our relationship goes far beyond the interpersonal dynamic between two individuals. The connections between Canadians and Americans are deep, broad, multilayered, multifaceted, commercial, cultural, familial, and those continue.
This decision by the U.S. administration will hurt Canadians, it will hurt Americans, and we regret that deeply, but we’ll continue to look for ways to move forward in a way that does not continue to hurt or continue to harm our citizens in both of our countries the way the actions of this administration today have.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Yes. Sorry. Just for one second.
HON. CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Can I just add one thing? Katie, you asked if these measures are strong enough, and speaking about the measures specifically, the retaliatory actions, this is 16.6 billion dollars of retaliation. This is the strongest trade action Canada has taken in the postwar era. This is a very strong response. It is a proportionate response. It is perfectly reciprocal. But I really want to assure you and to assure Canadians this is a very strong Canadian action in response to a very bad U.S. decision.
MODERATOR: Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star.
QUESTION: That partially deals with something I want to ask you though. If you’re targeting about $16.6 billion worth of goods, what analysis...what is your assessment of the impact on the Canadian economy of all of this?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Chrystia can speak to that, but one of the reasons we are a country that believes in free trade is that tariff barriers ultimately affect your own citizens most. This, as we’ve seen when the American government allowed a moving forward on issues around softwood lumber, the cost of housing in the United States for American homebuyers increased. Tariffs hurt local consumers, and as Chrystia has said, as we put forward our list of goods that will be subject to retaliatory tariffs, we will first of all be consulting with Canadians and industry for 15 days to ensure that there are not unforeseen or unwanted or undesirable consequences for Canadians, but at the same time, efforts have been made to look at goods that have alternatives, either Canadian alternatives or alternatives from countries with whom we have positive trade relationships that will not leave Canadians significantly out of pocket. Chrystia.
HON. CHRYSTIA FREELAND: And, so Tonda, if I could, this list is a very carefully considered, very carefully put together list. We have been working on it for some time. When the prime minister has said that Canada is ready for every eventuality in the past, we have been ready. This is something that Canada knows how to do, that our officials know how to do. I would remind people of our experience with COOL, Country of Origin Labeling, where Canada was also prepared to retaliate, and we had a very carefully considered list. That was in response to a WTO ruling in our favour. As the prime minister says, the consultation period is really, really important. We expect to get very useful feedback from Canadians, and we expect to use that period to refine the list, so please, everyone, start giving us feedback. Canadians who are watching, you can start right now.
As we said and as the prime minister has said, the list has been put together with a few considerations in mind. One has been to support and defend the Canadian steel and aluminum industries. They are now facing unfair barriers in their exports to the United States. It is appropriate that their U.S. competitors should face equivalent barriers in exporting to Canada, and I’d like to remind Americans who may be watching and listening, that Canada accounts for, as the prime minister said, roughly half of U.S. steel exports. So that is one consideration.
A second consideration, as the prime minister has said, is looking carefully at choosing goods for which there are replacements, so we’ve looked to choose goods for which there is a Canadian alternative, which would not face the 25 or 10% tariff, or an alternative produced by a country which is not the United States.
And then finally, in putting together the list, we have tried to look for end-use products because we are mindful of the fact that imposing tariffs on products that are part of some kind of a manufacturing chain could impose costs on Canadian companies and make us less efficient. So a lot of thought has gone into it, and I think a lot of thought and a lot of work will go into refining this list in the days to come.
QUESTION: So a follow-up, as a follow-up, given that there’s been discussion around your relationship, Prime Minister, with Trump and senior officials likewise, did you, in your talks in the last and recent days, give them advance notice of exactly what you were going to do with the level, and if you have, why did all those economic arguments that you’re making to us fail?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: You’ll have to ask the president about that. We have made consistent arguments and demonstrated in many different ways the interconnectedness of the Canada and American economies. We expect that in the coming days there will be many members of Congress, many governors who will be making representations directly to the White House on the negative impacts of the measures that the U.S. has put forward and the consequences of the measures the U.S. has put forward.
QUESTION: Did you give advance notice?
QUESTION: That was the part he didn’t answer.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We talked about how difficult this was going to be in terms of a turning point in the Canada-U.S. relationship.
MODERATOR: Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg.
QUESTION: What does this mean for NAFTA?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We continue to be open to working on a renewed and modernized NAFTA, and we will continue to sit down at the negotiating table. As I think you reported on, Josh, there was an offer that I made directly to the president last week to go down to Washington personally with Chrystia and sit down around a table with the president to work out the final details of NAFTA, because there was the broad lines of a, you know, decent win-win-win deal on the table that I thought required that final deal-making moment. I got a call from Vice-President Pence on Tuesday, in which it was impressed upon me that there was a precondition to us being able to get together, that Canada would accept a sunset clause for NAFTA. I had to highlight that there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause, and obviously the visit didn’t happen.
QUESTION: So just to be clear, you scrapped the visit because you wouldn’t agree to a sunset clause, or they scrapped the visit?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: The United States said as a precondition to us meeting and negotiating, we would have to accept a sunset clause. I said we could not accept a sunset clause in NAFTA as a precondition to meeting or as any sort of condition, but that if they were willing to take that off the precondition list, I would be happy to come down, but that was not something that could ever be acceptable to Canada, or, I’m fairly certain, to Mexico in the negotiation of a North American Free Trade Agreement.
QUESTION: In French.
RT. HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I had the opportunity to speak to the President last Friday and I emphasized that I thought that we were quite close to an agreement and that the time had perhaps come for me to sit down with the President to work out the final details of NAFTA because there was the broad lines of a decent win-win-win deal, and I thought that we would be able to achieve it by sitting down together for a few hours. He was open to that, but on Tuesday, I received a call from Vice-President Pence who told me that they were happy and open to having me come down and negotiate, but before coming I had to agree to include a sunset clause in NAFTA. In other words, NAFTA would end every five years unless the participants elected to reactivate it. It was and it is completely unacceptable for us, so I said that, unfortunately, if it was a precondition, I could not agree to it and, obviously, we did not go to Washington to have that day… to negotiate.
MODERATOR: David Akin, Global Television.
QUESTION: That’s very interesting. Just trying to digest that bit of news there, thank you. I’d like to come back a bit to the G7. That... I’d like to know what you are going to do to coordinate action with six other, or five other, partners, I guess, to perhaps ramp up some pressure on the United States. We have a G6 plus one, essentially, right now, so what are you going to do as the host to focus on trade?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: From the very beginning of the Canadian presidency on the G7, we have been aware that there are issues that there is not consensus or unanimity on G7 partners, or particularly around trade and climate change, for example. But we also know that there is tremendous value in the seven leading industrial nations in the world coming together to talk about shared priorities, about shared challenges, including the shared challenge that we all face in different ways of making sure that the growth we’re creating within our economies benefits everyone in our economies.
That’s why we put forward a number and a broad range of proposals from strengthening women’s entrepreneurship to helping women and girls in developing countries around the world to concrete action on protecting our oceans from pollution, to measure around security concerns that are active in the world, from our democracies to protecting our oceans from pollution, to measures around security concerns that are active in the world, from our democracies to nuclear threats.
There are a broad range of elements that we have and do and continue to agree on and work together. There are other elements in which there will be robust discussions around the table. That’s one of the points of having a G7, to allow for frank and serious conversations amongst world leaders who serve populations that aren’t so dissimilar in their values and approaches.
QUESTION: And just like to read something by you that Wilbur Ross said this morning about, I’d like you both maybe to comment. He described this as quote, “blips on the radar screen,” and he said that quote, “Everybody has spats now and again. Every country does. Nothing weird about that. I think everybody will get over this in due course.” Prime Minister, Minister Freeland?
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I think the fact that the United State is invoking national security measures against Canada, against its closest allies, friends, and partners in the world, including NATO and NORAD partners, means that this is perhaps more significant than the administration realizes, and emphasize... and we will certainly hope to emphasize that by the seriousness with which we take these measures.
I can tell you, for Canadian auto workers, for Canadian aluminum workers, for Canadian steel workers, these are not blips. These are real issues, these are real families who are going to get hurt by this, and that on both sides of the border. Chrystia.
HON. CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Yeah. Well, I agree 100% with what the prime minister has just said. We need to be very clear exactly how absurd this U.S. action is. This is a specious and unprecedented use of Section 232. Section 232, as the prime minister has just said, is a national security consideration, and to use this section, which is meant to give the U.S. the right to defend its national security, something that I think all countries would see as proper, to use it as a way to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum sold to the United States by its closest allies and partners in the world, by its partners in NATO, its partners in NORAD, its partners in the G7, we are partners with the United States in defending South Korea in the Korean Peninsula. To use a national security consideration as an excuse to impose these tariffs is unprecedented and it is simply wrong.
I would also just underscore, David, that, you know, this is not about Canada. This is about the United States and a posture the United States has chosen to assume toward the rest of the world. Particularly towards its closest friends and allies. These are measures that have been applied not only towards Canada, but towards the EU, towards Mexico. That is a decision the U.S. government has taken, and we believe it is a highly regrettable one, and we’ve said that directly to our American counterparts.
MODERATOR: Okay, so we’ve got only about two minutes left – six people on the list – we can have time for one more question. I’ll give it to Bellavance from La Presse.
QUESTION: Mr. Trudeau, to what extent will the action of Mr. Trump and his administration today disrupt the schedule planned for the G7 meeting next week?
RT. HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: There will probably always be issues about which the various G7 members will have differing views, particularly with regard to climate change and international trade levels. We prepared an agenda containing many elements on which we will agree, and we will be able to accomplish important work for us and the whole world. But, at the same time, we know that we will have robust discussions on these topics and others and we will certainly see that the G7 will continue to play a useful role in allowing frank and thorough discussions about the issues and concerns, not only for us as the leader, but for our citizens as well.
QUESTION: Will your government provide financial assistance for the steel and aluminum industry if the trade dispute lasts a long time?
RT. HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I personally went to see aluminum workers in Saguenay and met with steel workers in Hamilton, Regina... and Sault-Sainte-Marie, to show my support and reassure them several months ago, regardless of the final decision today. We will be there for them, to support and defend Canadian industry, to defend Canadian workers and interests. And we must absolutely do it.