OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is keeping up the pressure on the Trump administration, warning that Canada’s support for the updated North American trade pact may hinge on the U.S. lifting tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
Freeland, who met Monday in Washington with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, says many Canadians have serious questions about ratifying the new NAFTA as long as those tariffs are still in place.
Freeland says she told President Donald Trump’s trade czar that Canadians want the U.S. tariffs and Canada’s retaliatory measures removed before the countries move forward with the approval of the agreement, also known as the USMCA.
In addition to being ratified in Mexico and Canada, the deal must make its way through Congress as part of a process that experts predict will take until late summer to run its course.
Freeland was in the U.S. capital to meet with Lighthizer as well as other lawmakers, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the new chair of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade.
She calls the tariffs — which the U.S. justifies on national security grounds — illegal and absurd, saying they make even less sense now that the new NAFTA agreement has been signed by all three countries.
“I also made the point to Ambassador Lighthizer that the existence of these tariffs, for many Canadians, raises some serious questions about NAFTA ratification,” Freeland said following Monday’s meeting.
“I have heard from a lot of Canadians that they would be really troubled by Canada moving forward with ratification while the tariffs are still in place. I think to Canadians it just doesn’t make sense.”