U.S. picks another trade fight with Canada

It seems as if it will never end.

The trade war between Canada and the United States is a long one and despite past agreements, such as the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement, the war rages on. It seems whenever the two countries agree to something, it’s only a matter of time before they disagree.

U.S. President Donald Trump has started the war again and this one is getting ugly.

“We lose a lot of money with Canada,” Trump was quoted as saying across media too numerous to mention about a month ago. “Canada does not treat us right in terms of the farming and the crossing the borders.”

Oh no, here we go again. But it gets even worse.

Now, softwood lumber, steel or Canadian dairy products aren’t the only targets of this never-ending trade war. The U.S. is even complaining about trade in something as trivial as welded pipe now. Well, maybe it’s not so trivial after all.

Canada is one of six countries named in a new anti-dumping and countervailing duty probe announced Tuesday by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

In a statement, Ross said the trade investigation will look into whether imports of large-diameter welded pipe from Canada, China, Greece, India, Korea, and Turkey are being dumped in the United States and if foreign producers are getting unfair subsidies.

The U.S. could impose duties if it finds the imports are hurting its domestic producers.

The U.S. launched the probe after five U.S. companies — American Cast Iron Pipe Company of Birmingham, Ala., Berg Steel Pipe Corp. of Panama City, Fla., Dura-Bond Industries of Steelton, Pa., Skyline Steel of Parsippany, N.J., and Stupp Corporation of Baton Rouge, La. — filed petitions.

Well, when is enough, enough? We either have free trade or we don’t. And lately, it seems we don’t.

Speaking with reporters Monday, Trump also raised the suggestion of some form of penalty tax on some imports into the United States. Trump has spoken of an import tax before, and said this week that more details could be coming in the next few days.

“We are going to charge countries outside of our country — countries that take advantage of the United States,” Trump said.

The National Post, perhaps said it best in a headline: “A day in Canada-US affairs: One threat dropped, two raised, one reality TV show.”

But this is getting a little more serious than a reality TV show. The National Post story seemed to indicate that Trump is getting ready to play hardball: “Again and again, members of Congress attempted to rein in his more protectionist impulses. They expressed support for the president’s get-tough attitude but raised different concerns about the impact tariffs might have on the economy, such as higher prices,” Alexander Panetta of the Canadian Press, wrote. “The president was undeterred.”

To use Trump’s words now: “We’re like the stupid people (on trade).”
The Office of the United States Trade Representative website reports it this way:

“Canada is currently our second largest goods trading partner with $544.0 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2016. Goods exports totalled $266.0 billion; goods imports totalled $278.1 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Canada was $12.1 billion in 2016.”

According to the Department of Commerce, U.S. exports of goods and services to Canada supported an estimated 1.6 million jobs in 2015 (latest data available) (1.2 million supported by goods exports and 36,000 supported by services exports).

So can President Trump just throw that all away because he’s not getting his own way now? A Reuters story just a few days ago, seemed to indicate he might do just that.

“Canada is increasingly convinced that President Donald Trump will soon announce the United States intends to pull out of NAFTA, two government sources said on Wednesday, sending the Canadian and Mexican currencies lower and hurting stocks,” David Ljunggren of Reuters writes

“The comments cast further doubt on prospects for talks to modernize the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has repeatedly threatened to abandon unless major changes are made.”

Officials are due to hold a sixth round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal Jan. 23-28 as time runs out to bridge major differences. It appears Trump will do everything in his power to ensure nothing ever comes of those negotiations. It seems almost all too certain that Trump’s threat to tear up the deal could turn true sooner than we all might think.

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Jeff Wilkinson

About the Author: Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson  is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining  Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.

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