Ottawa (AFP) – From an aluminum smelter, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called US President Donald Trump on Monday to press for a permanent exclusion from US tariffs on aluminum and steel.
It was their first conversation since Trump last week imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, raising trade tensions.
Trudeau “emphasized that preserving (the two nations’) mutually beneficial supply chains is critical to jobs and businesses on both sides of the border,” according to a summary.
The prime minister was touring an aluminum smelter in Alma, Quebec. He was to also visit three Canadian steel cities this week to reassure workers.
His Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, will be in Washington on Tuesday and Thursday to “advance Canada’s efforts to keep trade open, fair and barrier-free, to benefit people on both sides of the border,” her ministry said in a statement.
She is to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Congressional leaders and others.
Canada, the top supplier of steel and aluminum to the US market, has been temporarily exempted from the tariffs, along with Mexico.
When Trump announced the 10 percent tariffs on aluminum and 25 percent on steel, he said Canada and Mexico could be exempted permanently if the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is successful.
In the call with Trudeau, Trump “emphasized the importance of quickly concluding the ongoing NAFTA negotiations,” the White House said.
But both Mexico and Canada have rejected Trump’s linkage of the levies to the ongoing NAFTA talks.
“We will continue working toward securing a definite and permanent exemption from those tariffs,” Trudeau said earlier.
He said he and Trump also “welcomed and encouraged the progress being made on negotiation of the renewed North American Free Trade Agreement” and discussed an opioid crisis affecting both nations.