Adrian Morrow, The Globe and Mail
June 18, 2020

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer told congressional hearings Wednesday that rising metals imports are “a problem with Canada that we’re working on.”

“There have been surges on steel and aluminum,” he said. “It’s something that’s of genuine concern.”

A Canadian official and a U.S. industry source with knowledge of the talks said there had been discussions between the Trump administration and the Trudeau government over Canada’s exports. The industry insider said the White House is still trying to decide whether to reimpose tariffs.

“If Mr. Lighthizer reimposed tariffs on Canada, he would face domestic backlash from manufacturers who rely on imported metals. He would also face opposition from the Republican congressional caucus, which, in sharp contrast with Mr. Trump’s protectionism, typically favours freer trade. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley on Wednesday pressed Mr. Lighthizer to consult with Congress before reimposing metals levies.

Still, even the possibility of a return to tariffs triggered a volcanic reaction in Canada.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said there is a very real possibility that Mr. Lighthizer would impose new levies, either in an effort to squeeze more trade concessions out of Ottawa or play to Mr. Trump’s protectionist base ahead of the November presidential election. “I’ve learned not to take anything for granted with these guys, especially in an election year,” he said. “It’s a protection racket disguised as foreign policy.”

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