Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday December 14, 2021
Canada threatens U.S. with tariffs, partial suspension of CUSMA over electric vehicle tax credit
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has written to top U.S. senators threatening to suspend parts of the CUSMA trade agreement and impose tariffs on American goods unless U.S. officials back away from a proposed tax credit for American-built electric vehicles.
“We are deeply concerned that certain provisions of the electric vehicle tax credits as proposed in the Build Back Better Act violate the United States’ obligations under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” Freeland and International Trade Minister Mary Ng say in the letter.
“The proposal is equivalent to a 34 per cent tariff on Canadian-assembled electric vehicles,” the letter says. “The proposal is a significant threat to the Canadian automotive industry and is a de facto abrogation of the USMCA.”
The Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the United States.
Congress is proposing sizeable tax credits worth up to $12,500 US to buyers of new electric vehicles — as long as those cars are manufactured by union workers in the U.S.
Experts agree the tax measure would deal a major blow to the Canadian automotive sector, which is trying to attract new investment as the industry transitions away from internal combustion engines.
Freeland and Ng also say in the letter that they will “consider the possible suspension of USMCA concessions of importance to the U.S.” They specifically mention the possible suspension of “USMCA dairy tariff-rate quotas” and the possibility of delaying implementation of CUSMA copyright changes.
“To be clear, we do not wish to go down a path of confrontation,” the letter says. “That has not been the history of the relationship between our two countries – nor should it be the future.
“There is an opportunity to work together to resolve this issue by ensuring Canadian-assembled vehicles and batteries are eligible for the same credit as U.S.-assembled vehicles and batteries.”
Ng said the letter is Canada’s way of indicating that it’s prepared to play hardball on the trade file, although she would prefer to come to a compromise that avoids trade actions. (CBC)