Possible good news for Canada on tariffs: White House hints ‘carve-out’ coming

Possible middle-of-the road approach on the way bringing temporary relief for Canada, Mexico

Canada may get a special “carve-out” allowing it to avoid the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial steel and aluminum tariffs, a White House spokeswoman suggested Wednesday.

After days of drama and a last-minute diplomatic scramble, the White House is now hinting that the impending tariff announcement might have some particular exceptions based on national-security considerations for the U.S. neighbours.

“There are potential carve-outs for Canada and Mexico based on national security — and possibly other countries as well, based on that process,” Sarah Sanders said during her daily media briefing.

“That would be a case-by-case and country-by-country basis.”

The formal tariff announcement could come as early as Thursday.

Intense debates have been going on within the Trump administration about whether to offer any exemptions — some want a hardline approach where the tariffs apply to every country; some want the opposite, meaning full relief for Canada and other allies.

And this week the administration has been hinting at a possible middle-of-the road approach: temporary relief for Canada and Mexico, with the threat of tariffs as a U.S. negotiating weapon at the NAFTA bargaining table.

READ MORE: Trump tweets that steel, aluminum tariffs stay unless there’s a new NAFTA deal

READ MORE: U.S. proposed steel, aluminum tariffs leave uncertainty for B.C. site

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wants to withhold judgment until the final details are out.

“We know from experience that we need to wait and see what this president is actually going to do,” Trudeau said during a news conference just the Sanders briefing.

“There’s many discussions on this going on in the United States right now. We are going to make sure we’re doing everything we need to do to protect Canadian workers — and that means waiting to see what the president actually does.”

A full-court, 11th-hour diplomatic press was underway Wednesday.

It occurred in Ottawa, Washington, New York and even in Texas, where a number of Canadian officials were reaching out to American peers — some of whom had been pleading the Canadian case.

The fact that Canada might be hit with tariffs had actually become a leading talking point for critics bashing the Trump plan. From Capitol Hill, to cable TV, to the Wall Street Journal editorial pages, numerous commentators ridiculed the idea of a supposed national-security tariff applied to Canada.

A poll this week suggested the measures are unpopular.

In the final diplomatic push, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke with congressional leader Paul Ryan, and Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton was to dine Wednesday with U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan chatted with Pentagon counterpart James Mattis, UN ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard spoke with U.S. counterpart Nikki Haley, and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr raised the issue with Energy Secretary Rick Perry at a conference in Texas.

Trudeau, meanwhile, spoke with the president this week.

A source familiar with the last-minute scramble likened it to a high-stakes, reality-show content, with a drama-courting U.S. president at the centre of the production: “(It’s a) last-episode-of-‘The-Apprentice’ kind of thing.”

Canada is the No. 1 exporter of steel and aluminum into the U.S., which is looking to impose tariffs under a rarely used national-security provision in a 1962 law, which some critics have called either illegitimate or likely to start copycat measures that threaten the international trading system.

Some trade hawks in the administration argue the tariffs must apply to everyone to be effective. If the goal is to keep out low-cost international steel, with excess Chinese supply dragging down the entire global market, they say the U.S. can’t allow any supply in at low global prices.

The counter-argument was that these measures might help some American steel workers, but hurt far more workers in other sectors which use steel, damage the economy as a whole and poison America’s relationships with the rest of the world.

The biggest U.S. business lobby is among those pushing back.

”These new tariffs would directly harm American manufacturers, provoke widespread retaliation from our trading partners, and leave virtually untouched the true problem of Chinese steel and aluminum overcapacity,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue said Wednesday.

”Alienating our strongest global allies amid high-stakes trade negotiations is not the path to long-term American leadership.”

As for the specific design of a so-called carve-out, there are different ways to do it, according to one trade consultant who has been counsel in numerous cross-border steel disputes.

One is a full exemption. Another, says Peter Clark, is to link application to the successful conclusion of NAFTA. And a final one involves a phase-in exempting current parterships, like in the auto sector.

”It (would) take time to deal with existing cross-border contracts which can last for years,” Clark said.

”They cannot be redone overnight.”

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Metro mayors to hike transit fares, property taxes to pay for transit projects

Next phase includes Broadway subway, Surrey LRT and replacement of the Pattullo Bridge

Langley What’s On: March 15, 2018 edition

Submit Langley events: LangleyAdvance.com/add-event or news@langleyadvance.com (subject: What’s On).

Stolen: baby formula, rain gear and a Playstation

The Langley RCMP is investigating various property crimes and incidents.

Rhythmic gymnasts set for competition at Cloverdale Fairgrounds this weekend

Elegant, artistic sport a great way to build self-confidence, says coach

Trinity Western Spartans get early lead against Selkirk College Saints in BCIHL action

Friday night in Langley saw game two of the BCIHL playoffs between TWU and Selkirk

VIDEO: Climber ‘catches the sunrise’ over city atop B.C. crane

Police warn ‘rooftopping’ poses risk to climber, public and first responders

VIDEO: ‘Big time disappointment’ as Vancouver Giants fall to undermanned Kelowna Rockets

Head coach Jason McKee very unhappy with effort in Giants’ regular season home finale

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Delta South MLA calls high-speed rail study a ‘crazy announcement’

‘You’d be better off to move to Seattle’ than to travel to Vancouver from the Lower Mainland

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

SAY WHAT? Readers weigh in on high-speed rail to U.S.

B.C. to contribute $300,000 to a million-dollar business study on the proposed project

B.C.-based CEO charged with conspiring to sell unhackable phones to criminals

Vincent Ramos of Richmond, was arrested last week in Seattle in years-long undercover operation

Most Read