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Canada Slaps Retaliatory Tariffs On U.S.


Today is Canada Day. And on this holiday, Canadian tariffs on nearly $13 billion of U.S. goods took effect. The tariffs are mostly on aluminum and steel, but more than 120 consumer products are included as well. The move is in response to the Trump administration levying tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel last month, citing national security concerns.

NPR's Jackie Northam has this report.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The list of U.S. products being hit with retaliatory tariffs includes everything from musical instruments and motorboats to yogurt and bourbon, items produced in states that are closely aligned with the Trump administration. But by far the largest tariffs will fall on U.S. steel and aluminum.

Darren Green is the president of a large steelworkers' union in Hamilton, Ontario. He says Canada has to stand up to what he calls Trump's bullying. But he says the whole situation is unnecessary and destructive.

DARREN GREEN: We're producing more steel now than we have probably, I would say, in the last 20, 30 years. And we should be celebrating that and the success of that. But we're not. We're going to tear each other down, and we're going to destroy families. We're going to destroy an industry. It makes no sense.


NORTHAM: Massive trucks rumble out of the Stelco steel plant in Hamilton all day and night, heading towards the American border. The Canadian Steel Producers Association says the U.S. and Canada export roughly the same amount of steel to each other annually. It's part of a tightly integrated cross-border trade network worth about $2 billion every day.

President Trump says Canada has unfair trade policies and has a huge trade surplus with the U.S. Nonsense, says Gordon Ritchie, Canada's ambassador for trade negotiations in the 1980s.

GORDON RITCHIE: Official U.S. government statistics show that the U.S. is in a small surplus with Canada. It's largely balanced trade, and it's fair trade, and it's free trade - or it was until Mr. Trump started applying bizarre restrictions, tariffs under the guise of national security, which is, of course, ludicrous.

NORTHAM: There are concerns that the two neighbors could get embroiled in a trade war.

Roland Paris, a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa and a former foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says no one wins in a trade war, which could cost tens of thousands of jobs. Paris says it's a sobering moment in Canada-U.S. relations.

ROLAND PARIS: We make stuff together. We are the biggest bilateral trading relationship in the world. We're the closest two countries in the world. There's no reason why we shouldn't continue to work closely together to grow our own and each other's economies.

NORTHAM: Paris says Canada's economy is doing well and will sustain a hit from the trade spat with the U.S., but only up to a point. He says Canada's economy is much smaller than the U.S., and it relies heavily on trade with its southern neighbor.

Jackie Northam, NPR News, Ottawa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.