Canada’s finance minister said Friday he is hopeful the threat of retaliation against U.S. trade measures will persuade the Trump administration to back away from the steel and aluminum tariffs it has imposed on its G7 allies.
The tariffs have landed just as Finance Minister Bill Morneau presides over a meeting of finance ministers from the G7 industrial nations at which the event’s pre-set agenda has been overtaken by fears of a trade war.
Morneau said Canada’s government isn’t ready to discuss support or potential bailout packages for Canadian business sectors affected by the tariffs. He said the focus now is to use the threat of retaliatory measures to pressure the U.S. into reconsidering its own tariffs before any negative economic impact actually materializes.
Canada’s retaliatory tariffs don’t go into effect until July, which in theory leaves plenty of time for U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider his position.
“We see that response as being a way to get us back to the table so the impacts actually don’t happen,” Morneau said.
Canada isn’t alone in its fight: The U.S. measures also struck other G7 nations — and those partners have returned fire with potential tariffs of their own.
The European Union is also planning a tariff counter strike and filed a request Friday for consultations with the World Trade Organization.
Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy and finance minister, said a G7 trade war should be avoided.
“On trade, this is a G6 plus one,” Le Maire said after stepping outside briefly from the talks. “We have been attacked by those tariffs. We do not have any other choice but to respond. We would have preferred not to take that kind of decision.”
Le Maire said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wasn’t surprised when confronted about the tariffs inside the talks. The French official expressed hope that the discussion will lay the foundation for successful talks during next week’s summit of G7 national leaders in Quebec’s Charlevoix region.
“We think that the G7 (meetings) will be useful if at the end of the G7, the United States is aware of the possible negative consequences of their decision on the unity of the G7 — not only the economic unity, but also the political one,” Le Maire said.
Trump has said the tariffs are needed to protect U.S. steel and aluminum industries vital to the nation’s security.
Morneau has called that “absurd” because Canada is no security risk to the U.S., and he warned the tariffs will destroy jobs on both sides of the border.
He said he used a private, bilateral meeting Thursday in Whistler to personally deliver that message to Mnuchin. Morneau declined to share details about how Canada’s argument was received, but he predicted some sparks would fly during the talks.
“Clearly, that is going to be a difficult discussion,” he said.
The Associated Press