Premiers should rip Trudeau on tariffs

When Canada’s premiers get Justin Trudeau in a room tomorrow, they need to take the PM to task for his complete incompetence on dealing with steel and aluminum tariffs.

Yes, it was Donald Trump that imposed the tariffs.

Yes, he called it a national security measure.

If you listen to most media reports that is all you would know. The reality is that the Americans warned Canada for a full year to act before imposing the tariffs and we did nothing.

In fact, the feds are only now starting to act in ways that will get the Americans to lift the tariffs.

Let’s go over some background.

Do the Americans actually see Canada or Canadian steel as a national security threat?

No, of course not.

The 231 tariffs are simply the mechanism they have at the president’s disposal to deal with the issue.

What is the issue?

Chinese steel.

Specifically Chinese steel shipped to Canada and then passed off as a Canadian product to enter the United States duty free.

This has been known for some time.

As I explained in a Toronto Sun column last June, the Americans asked us to deal with this problem, called “transshipment,” back in April of 2017. The Trudeau government did nothing.

The Trump administration threatened tariffs unless Canada acted. Trudeau and company still did nothing.

Then the night before the tariffs were to come into effect, Finance Minister Bill Morneau put out a statement saying Canada was improving anti-dumping measures.

Only now are the feds acting.

A posting to the government procurement website is looking for a company to help trace the origin of steel.

“The challenge seeks to create a novel application of a digital tracing system enabled by blockchain and artificial intelligence for the Canadian and possibly North American steel supply chain for business users and government,” the RFP reads.

So let’s be clear on timelines here.

  • April 2017 – Americans ask Canada to stop Chinese steel dumping
  • March 1, 2018 – Trump announces intention to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum
  • May 30, 2018 – Trudeau government promises action on Chinese steel dumping
  • May 31, 2018 – Tariffs imposed
  • December 6, 2018 – Trudeau government asks for proposals to deal with issue the Americans raised 21 months earlier

Why is this taking so long?

This could all have been avoided.

Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Commerce Secretary, said as much in an appearance before Congress in June while being quizzed on the tariffs.

From my Sun column of six months ago:

“The only way we’re going to solve the global steel overproduction and overcapacity is by getting all the other countries to play ball with us,” Ross said on Wednesday.

“And while they’re complaining bitterly about the tariffs, the fact is they’re starting to take the kind of action, which, if they had taken sooner, would have prevented this crisis.”

And yet the feds have done nothing.

We have job losses and financial pain in this country that could have been avoided. It is in Canada’s best interest to stop the dumping of Chinese steel.

So why wouldn’t the Trudeau government do it?

My best guess is he didn’t want to upset his friends in Beijing.

The Trudeau government also sees political opportunity in having Donald Trump as an opponent and the Canadian media happily plays along.

How many times have you heard how insulting it is for Canada to be considered a national security threat?


How many times have you heard why the Americans are invoking the tariffs and how we could have avoided them?

Not often, maybe never.

Yet this is the reality.

Trudeau should have acted sooner.

The tariffs are wrong and never should have been imposed but Trudeau had an out for Canada and didn’t take it. He let people lose their jobs.

Now he is asking for contractors to help 21 months later?

So when the premiers meet with Trudeau tomorrow, they need to make it clear to him that he has options, that they know he has been dragging his feet and that this needs to end.

There are too many jobs on the line for Trudeau’s political games to continue.