'New low in trade relationship,' expert says of Canada-U.S. tariff showdown
Only time will tell how Canada’s major manufacturing hubs will stand up against punishing tariffs on goods shipped to the U.S., according to a Harper-era trade insider betting that American rivals are better prepared to withstand a trade war with no end in sight. Even now that Ottawa has struck back with levies of its own.
Canada’s $16.6 billion slate of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods officially kicked in on Sunday -- a 25 per cent surtax on more than 100 steel and aluminum products, and a 10 per cent surtax on more than 70 other categories of goods.
“It just goes to show how much of a new low we have reached in the Canada-U.S. trade relationship,” Adam Taylor, now the principal and co-founder at the boutique trade firm Export Action Global, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.
While Ottawa’s response to Washington’s steel and aluminum tariffs on shipments crossing its border are meant to mirror the economic impact in both countries, Taylor anticipates the consequences of a drawn-out conflict will be far more serious in Canada.
He points to manufacturing hubs across the country, particularly in Quebec and Ontario. Those regions, he says, are so heavily depended on U.S. demand for everything from Canadian-made cars, aircraft and food, that nearly 50 per cent of their gross domestic product comes from south of the border.
“By contrast, in states like Michigan and Vermont, those are the two states that have the biggest driver of trade with Canada, and it’s still less than 20 per cent,” Taylor said. “It just goes to show, in a trade war, Canada is ultimately the one to lose.”
It’s tough to know if it is in fact U.S. President Trump’s strategy to engage in a long fight with Canada, hoping Ottawa cries “uncle” first. What can be seen is his willingness to ignore those who insist he and his administration are charting the wrong course on the trade file.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobbying group, warned on Monday of the dangers to the U.S. economy in a report that broke down the individual risks for every state.
“Tariffs imposed by the United States are nothing more than a tax increase on American consumers and businesses -- including manufacturers, farmers, and technology companies -- who will all pay more for commonly used products and materials,” the group wrote in the report. “This is the wrong approach, and it threatens to derail our nation’s recent economic resurgence.”
On Tuesday, Trump boasted on Twitter about the strength of the U.S. economy that emerged prior to his administration’s efforts to “fix some of the worst and most unfair Trade Deals every made by any country” and suggested new agreements are “coming along very well.”
While the war of words between Trump and various trade observers rages on, Taylor expects Canadian grocery shoppers will be noticeably wounded in the wallet in a mere matter of days.
“In the next few days and in the next few weeks, we certainly will pay more,” he said. “This is one of the problems with these types of trade wars. We are making it more expensive for things to come into our country, which inevitably will impact the bottom lines, and the prices people pay at the grocery store.”