U.S. Withdraws Foolish Threat of New Tariffs on Canadian Aluminum
One of the more bizarre episodes of President Donald Trump’s trade war—and there are plenty of contenders—came to an abrupt end on Tuesday afternoon when the United States backed down from a threat to impose new tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada.
“This was a day where common sense prevailed,” Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister, said at a press conference on Tuesday where she announced that Canada would also drop its plans to retaliate against the threatened tariffs.
Indeed, much of American trade policy over the past few years has been marked by a shortage of common sense. But slapping new tariffs on aluminum imported from Canada—and doing so just weeks after the United States and Canada (and Mexico) signed a new trade agreement—was always completely indefensible.
Officially, the new tariffs were a response to what the White House called, at the urging of lobbyists for two domestic aluminum manufacturers, a surge in aluminum imports from Canada. That claim was a bunch of nonsense, but even if it were true, it wouldn’t be something to be upset about. The United States does not produce enough aluminum to meet domestic needs, so imports are essential for supporting the 97 percent of American aluminum industry jobs that are in downstream production. No wonder there was widespread opposition to the tariffs from the American aluminum industry—you know, the very industry that these tariffs were supposed to be protecting.
Unofficially, the entire episode is a good demonstration of how unmoored from reality the Trump administration’s views on trade have become. Like it did in 2018, the White House was planning to use Section 232 of the Trade
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