Morneau, WTO weigh in on Trump’s planned tariffs

March 2, 2018 | Last updated on March 2, 2018
2 min read

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he has told his American counterpart that Canada believes its steel and aluminum exports should be exempt from new tariffs on steel and aluminum that are planned by President Donald Trump.

Morneau told a Montreal business audience Friday that he had a “constructive” discussion on Thursday with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Morneau said Canada is a “staunch and permanent ally” of the United States and shouldn’t be affected if Trump declares a matter of national security to override trade rules and raise U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump said Thursday that he plans to announce a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum that would go into effect next week.

It isn’t yet known if Trump will exempt Canada, which is the largest steel and aluminum exporter to the United States.

Morneau declined to say whether he believes Trump’s action might unleash a global trade war.

Read: Trump’s steel, aluminum tariffs unwelcome even among supporters

WTO concerned about U.S. plans

The World Trade Organization warned Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump is risking an economically damaging trade war if he goes ahead with plans to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Roberto Azevedo, the director-general of the Geneva-based WTO, said the agency was “clearly concerned” at the U.S. plans and warned that “a trade war is in no one’s interests.”

“The potential for escalation is real as we have seen from the initial responses,” he said in comments emailed to The Associated Press by a WTO spokesman.

Azevedo said the WTO, the body that oversees global trade, “will be watching the situation very closely.”

By taking on Trump’s remarks directly, Azevedo is signalling a tougher stance toward the U.S. leader. The Brazilian-born lawyer has often treaded delicately when referring to Trump’s leadership of the world’s largest economy—even reacting cautiously when Trump criticized the WTO on the campaign trail.

His more muscular language follows a flurry of worries from key U.S. trading partners in Europe over Trump’s tariff plans.

The European Union is already thought to be considering retaliatory tariffs, roughly one-third of which would target steel, one third agriculture, and one third other products.