PLATTSBURGH — Local officials are urging the Trump Administration to rescind its recent tariff on Canadian aluminum imports to show support for the nation's cross-border relationship.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump, while speaking at a Whirlpool plant in Ohio, announced the 10 percent tariff on some aluminum products from Canada to go into effect Aug. 16.
"Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual,” he had said, according to reports by the Associated Press. "Several months ago, my administration agreed to lift those tariffs in return for a promise from the Canadian government that its aluminum industry would not flood our country with exports and kill all of our aluminum jobs, which is exactly what they did."
Northern leaders quickly responded and, as previously reported by the Press-Republican, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the neighbor nation would enact dollar-for-dollar countermeasures.
'ACT OF SELF HARM'
By Friday afternoon, Freeland said the tariffs were in the works and would amount to $3.6 billion, the Financial Post reported. These were expected by mid-September.
The North Country Chamber of Commerce referred to the 10 percent tax as an "unfortunate act of self harm by the U.S."
"Just weeks ago, on July 1st, we implemented the new USMCA agreement as a celebration of the enormous importance of the U.S.-Canada economic partnership," Chamber President and CEO Garry Douglas says in a statement, "and now we are already forgetting the special nature of that partnership.
"Hopefully, this will be short term in nature and will be reconsidered and reversed quickly."
PREVIOUS TRADE WAR
Trump ignited a trade war two years ago after upping tariffs on some imports, but chose not to exempt two of the nation's longtime NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico.
The two countries later retaliated with added tariffs of their own.
Renegotiations between the three countries then took flight, ending with new trade deal known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, or USMCA.
The "new NAFTA" was ratified earlier this year and went into effect July 1.
The USMCA had a variety of terms and was hoped to bring better support to U.S. farmers and their products, uncomplicate cross-border shipping and continue a zero-tariff treatment on goods exchanged between the three trading partners.
ALUMINUM UP NORTH
Canada was logged as one of the world's top aluminium exporters last year.
According to its government website, the country has 10 primary aluminum smelters.
While one was located in British Columbia, the other 9 were situated just across the North Country border in Quebec.
The material was most often used in the automotive industry, but had its place in the construction, electrical and packaging industries, as well.
Douglas said the added tariff on these products would impact upstate New York's manufacturing industry.
"The U.S. and Canada make things together," the chamber president says in his statement, "this directly increases costs to many of our manufacturers with cross border supply chains that include aluminum goods."
'SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY'
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) said she was opposed to the president's move, thinking, like Douglas, that the tariff would impact border towns and industries.
"This decision will slow the rate of our economic recovery from COVID-19, particularly for the manufacturers along the Northern Border in the North Country," her statement says. "Instead, our focus must be on working with our allies to address China’s overcapacity and the subsidized aluminum they continue to dump on the world market.
"I urge the Administration to reverse this reinstatement so we can focus on restoring our economy while holding unfriendly nations — like China — accountable.”
Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) thought the country should be mindful of the impact on Canadian business partners, "especially when the current climate is already presenting so many challenges."
NOT IN FAVOR
Other area officials voiced their own upset over the tariff with Clinton County Legislature Chairman Mark Henry (R-Area 3) noting an "unprecedented contraction of our local economies."
"We are all working together to bring that economy back from the brink," Henry told the Press-Republican. "I strongly oppose any action, such as this tariff, that puts our economy, our local jobs and our local businesses at more risk.
"We should be strong partners with our Canadian neighbors, not adversaries."
Plattsburgh City Mayor Colin Read said the move seemed to be "yet another effort to antagonize neighbors, while the nation cozies up to unsavory foes."
"I don't get it," he added, "especially in the wake of the ordeal the three North American nations went through recently on the USMCA."
And Town Supervisor Michael Cashman said he was joining the others and calling for a "swift reversal."
"The aluminum tariff set forth by the Trump Administration is shortsighted," the supervisor said. "No doubt Canada will respond with no less than dollar for dollar imposing tariffs on American products."
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