PBO says MPs should seek ‘clarity’ from government on Trump tariff retaliation

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OTTAWA — Parliament’s spending watchdog says the government is holding on to an extra $105 million that it collected on U.S. steel and aluminum during its trade fight with the Trump administration.

Wednesday’s report by the parliamentary budget officer says the government committed to return to affected industries $1.3 billion in surtaxes it charged on U.S. steel and aluminum imports in 2018 and 2019.

But the PBO says the government will return $105 million less than it assessed in surtaxes on the U.S. metals.

The PBO is urging MPs to “seek clarity” from the government on that point.

Canada imposed the duties as part of its broader $16-billion package of retaliation on various American products after the Trump administration placed duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum during the acrimonious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2018.

The United States said it was imposing the metals’ tariffs — which also hit Mexico — to stop the flood of cheap Chinese steel into North American markets, but the Trudeau government branded the move as arbitrary and illegal.

The U.S. lifted the tariffs last May, as the three North American countries moved forward with their new continental trade deal.