A prominent US trade representative is doubling down on the Trump administration’s assertion that Canada’s steel industry is a “national security threat.”
On Tuesday, Robert Lighthizer faced a series of questions from a US senate committee regarding Trump’s attitude towards towards tariffs and the impact of retaliatory tariffs from countries like Canada on US goods.
According to a report by CTV’s Ottawa bureau, the issue came to a head when Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed asked Lighthizer to specifically explain how Canada posed a threat to US national security.
“This is a country who has been with us every step of the way,” Reed said. “Are they a national security threat to the United States?” he said.
Lighthizer answered that “in the case of steel,” Canada “absolutely” is.
He quickly followed up with his remark that “nobody” is declaring war on Canada, though.
“They’re a great ally and certainly one of America’s closest friends and closest trading partners,” he said. “But if you decide that you need to protect an industry, you can’t be in a position where the protection is of no value.”
In late May, the US government announced its decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports. As of midnight on May 31, a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico went into effect.
“These tariffs are totally unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in response.
“The numbers are clear: The United States has a $2 billion US dollars surplus in steel trade with Canada – and Canada buys more American steel than any other country in the world, half of US steel exports.”
Trudeau added that Canada is a secure supplier of aluminum and steel to the US defence industry, “putting aluminum in American planes and steel in American tanks.”