Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday September 17, 2020
U.S. calls off tariffs on Canadian aluminum — for now
The United States hit the pause button on tariffs on Canadian aluminum today, agreeing to withdraw current penalties — at least until after the presidential election in November.
The move came right as Canada was set to impose a wide range of retaliatory measures that would have hit some politically inconvenient targets for President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election.
Ottawa was planning to reveal its targets for retaliation at 3 p.m. ET today. Shortly after noon, however, the U.S. abruptly declared it would drop its recently imposed 10 per cent import tax on Canadian aluminum — and revisit the issue every month.
That doesn’t mean the conflict is over. In making the announcement, the U.S. unilaterally set monthly targets for the volume of aluminum imports it will accept from Canada without a tariff.
Those targets set by the U.S. take effect in September. The U.S. said it will monitor export volumes six weeks after the end of every month — which punts the issue to mid-November, right after the Nov. 3 presidential election.
A Washington trade expert who worked in the Obama White House said it appears the Trump administration wanted to postpone a politically risky fight.
According to Canadian officials, the list of retaliatory tariffs Canada was preparing to impose Tuesday would have struck the very Ohio washing-machine plant where Trump announced his levy on cross-border aluminum.
“I think the threat the Canadian government made of retaliation was credible,” said Chad Bown, a trade official in the Obama White House and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
“[It had] the potential to hurt some of President Trump’s voters.”
The federal government welcomed the U.S. decision — but warned it’s still prepared to impose retaliatory measures if necessary. (CBC)