The dispiriting but unavoidable truth is that the U.S. president cannot be trusted on these matters. Nor is his opponent in the upcoming election guaranteed to be any better for Canadian exporters. Many assumptions that have underlain Canadian foreign, defence and economic planning for generations are now, if not obsolete, at least suspect. This is a major challenge for this country, landing at a time of both a public-health crisis at home and rising geopolitical tension abroad, including with, of course, China, which itself is not a reliable trading partner. It will require deft leadership and discipline among our political leadership to rise to this moment. Forgive us if we confess to some skepticism that our current leaders are up to that task.
It is disappointing, if not entirely surprising, that despite all the time and energy sunk into saving NAFTA, the president of the United States has once again hit Canadian aluminum and steel exports with a 10 per cent tariff, on the absurd pretext that U.S. national security is threatened by Canadian industry. (We’re still allies … right?) It is also not surprising that Canada has announced its own retaliatory tariffs, designed to match, dollar for dollar, the cost barriers the Americans are imposing on our exporters.
We oppose tariffs. Canada should pursue free trade with as many nations as possible, and should finally figure out how to have it internally, as well, it having somehow gotten away from us for our first 153 years as a country. We especially oppose tariffs among close allies, allies with free trade agreements, and even more so when the tariffs are manifestly ridiculous and self-serving. The U.S. president’s domestic political problems are now spilling over the border to hurt Canadian workers. The Canadian government’s choice to reply with retaliatory tariffs is no doubt likewise driven by domestic political realities, and though distasteful, likely could not be realistically avoided.