Canada will not bend to U.S. steel tariff pressure in NAFTA talks: Freeland

Federal comment comes after Trump excluded Canada and Mexico from the tariffs

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. (The Canadian Press)

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. (The Canadian Press)

As the United States tries to light a fire under NAFTA negotiations, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada will not be bullied or pressured by the United States as part of those talks.

Freeland is coming off a tense week which started with the seventh round of NAFTA negotiations making little progress towards an agreement but ended with a sigh of relief when Canada and Mexico secured an exemption from new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

READ: Canada dodges tariff bullet, at least for now

The steel tariff threat was seen by many to be an attempt by the Trump administration to pressure Canada and Mexico to complete the NAFTA talks — giving in to other U.S. demands or giving up some of their own —rather than risk the punishing steel and aluminum duties. The steel tariff investigation was launched to see the impact of steel imports on U.S. national security.

Freeland said it was absurd to consider Canadian steel a national security threat and that ”as far as Canada is concerned there is absolutely no connection” between the national security reasons cited for the steel tariffs and NAFTA.

“These are two separate tracks and in the NAFTA negotiations Canada will not be subject to any type of pressure,” she said. ”This episode has not changed our NAFTA negotiation position.”

Her words echo those of Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo who said last week Mexico also believed the steel tariffs had nothing to do with the NAFTA talks.

Freeland notes the written presidential proclamation putting them in place does not.

“That was significant and we were glad to see that,” she said.

The proclamation instead pointed to economic integration between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the fact the U.S. also exports steel to both Canada and Mexico, and the three countries’ shared commitment to national security and addressing global excess capacity in steel production. Trump did say he expected both Canada and Mexico to take action to prevent other countries from sneaking steel into the U.S. by sending them to Canada or Mexico first.

However Trump specifically mentioned NAFTA in his press conference announcing the exemptions on March 8.

“We’re negotiating right now NAFTA and we’re going to hold off the tariff on those two countries to see whether or not we’re able to make the deal on NAFTA,” he said. He added that national security was an important part of that deal and, if a deal is made, “this will figure into the deal and we won’t have the tariffs on Canada or Mexico.”

NAFTA talks started seven months ago and the U.S. is starting to get antsy about getting a deal. Mexican federal elections scheduled for July 1 and U.S. congressional elections in the fall are adding pressure, as changes of government as a result of either could affect both getting a deal and getting it ratified.

Following the close of the seventh round of negotiations last week in Mexico, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. wants to get a deal done in the next four to six weeks. Canada and Mexico are both indicating a willingness to step up the pace of the talks but not at the expense of getting a good deal for all.

Freeland is headed to New York Monday to host an event on Canada’s Elsie Initiative for Women in Peacekeeping, which aims to increase the number of women deployed as part of peacekeeping forces around the world. From there, she may travel to Washington, D.C. to continue NAFTA talks although her spokesman would only say her schedule is still being finalized.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is heading to Canadian steel country this week on a three-day tour designed to shore up the industry. The tour was planned before the tariff exemption was confirmed but will still go ahead despite the exemption, with stops in Alma., Que, Hamilton, Ont., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Regina, Sask.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A locked gate prevents access to a logging road on Mosaic Forests land in 2017. (ELENA RARDON/ Alberni Valley News)
ACRD, Mosaic form working group for public access to forest lands

Pilot project will allow increased public access on a trial basis to Scout Beach and Lowry Lake

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

The Alberni Valley’s Emergency Operations Centre is located around the corner and below the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
ACRD, First Nations to partner on regional evacuation route

Union of BC Municipalities grants $82K for route development

Traffic on Cherry Creek Road is at a standstill as emergency vehicles deal with the aftermath of a collision on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY TONY SHUMUK)
Air ambulance called for motor vehicle incident near Port Alberni

Helicopter lands on field near Cherry Creek Road

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have teamed up with the WCGH Foundation in the past to deliver stuffed animals to patients at the hospital. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Alberni Valley Bulldogs hope to score large donation for West Coast General Hospital

Challenge is part of a league-wide initiative to help give back to teams’ communities

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

Most Read