Canada is counting on its allies in the U.S. Congress to curb Trump’s trade war — but do they have the ‘guts’?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — War can be hell, even a trade war.

The blows aimed at Canada from south of the border have come fast and furious lately, with the U.S. slapping hefty tariffs on exports ranging from steel to newsprint, demanding to rip up NAFTA and even offering nasty words for the prime minister.

Amid the attacks and reprisals, there is some solace for Canada: a substantial chunk of the Washington, D.C. political class that has, in effect, taken this country’s side in various trade skirmishes. As the White House fires salvos at Canada, some lawmakers, even members of President Donald Trump’s Republican party, have acted almost like a wartime fifth column within the Washington beltway.

The question now is whether even they will have have any impact on the president’s agenda.

On Wednesday, senators voted 88-11 in favour of a non-binding motion that calls for Congress to have a greater say in the administration’s use of “national-security” tariffs, like those on steel and aluminum.

“Let’s be clear, this is a rebuke of the President’s abuse of trade authority,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a vocal Trump critic. “Can you imagine being Canada and being told your steel and aluminum exports to the United States (are) a national security threat?”

Down the hall in the House of Representatives, several members introduced a bill Wednesday that would require the president to get congressional approval for national-security tariffs, while the house’s trade subcommittee announced a hearing next week into the trade war’s toll on agriculture. Producers are being “significantly hurt” by tariffs on imports they need, and face “severe” effects from retaliatory measures taken by Canada and other nations, said subcommittee chair Dave Reichert.

Republican Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake speaks to the press after a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on June 13, 2018.

Congressmen have also introduced bills to end new tariffs on Canadian newsprint, urged a stop to Canadian softwood lumber duties and spoken out generally against the White House’s confrontational trade tactics with friends like Canada.

“Canada does have allies in Washington and Congress,” said Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer based in Columbus. “Here in Ohio, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who is one of the most anti-NAFTA, pro-tariff members of the Senate you will meet … even he’s saying that Canada should be exempted — as well as Mexico and the European Union – from steel and aluminum tariffs.”

After meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland last month, members of the Senate’s GOP-dominated foreign relations committee went out of their way to commiserate with Canada, citing the “sadness” of the suddenly tense relationship.

A “maple charm offensive” that has seen virtually every member of the federal cabinet make a total of over 200 visits to the U.S. in the last year has likely helped encourage such viewpoints, said a Canadian official familiar with the trade file.

But it would be naïve to suggest American politicians are acting out of affection for their polite neighbours …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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