Whether or not you’re a fan of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he is doing what must be done in the trade dispute with the United States.
And make no mistake; this is about President Donald Trump and his desire to claim a win.
The U.S. has imposed 25 percent import tariffs on Canadian steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
Trudeau was clearly prepared, because Canada responded immediately with $16.6 billion equivalent tariffs on various imports from the U.S. that are designed to target industries based in states represented by key Republicans.
Canada has also filed complaints with the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. While the U.S. tariffs begin immediately, Canada served 30 days notice by holding off until July 1, giving the Trump administration time to think things over, and perhaps to realize that trade wars aren’t so easy to win.
Trudeau took an uncharacteristically feisty approach in his language: calling the U.S. tariffs – imposed under the auspices of national security – “insulting,” since Canada is a U.S. ally, not a threat.
He used the language that perhaps Trump could understand: “we will always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests.” (Not quite Canada first, but along those lines.)
Whether or not NAFTA lives or dies, Canada must stand up for itself. In his televised address, Trudeau would have done well to look straight into the camera and say, I’m sorry for the Canadians who are going to suffer economically for this. I’m sorry that some Canadians will be forced into the role of economic warrior. But if we acquiesce, the next president will take his cues from our weakness. And we are not weak. The United States will see that. When we return to the negotiating table, it will be from a position of strength – a position the Untied States understands well.”
A bully often stops when someone stands up to him because he doesn’t like to feel the pain he inflicts on others.
If Canada goes ahead with its tariffs on July 1, the U.S. will feel that pain.
This is an awful way to conduct business between the two longstanding allies. But, as the song goes, we didn’t start the fire.