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Trump reimposes tariffs on raw Canadian aluminum, says needs to defend U.S. industry

President Donald Trump on Thursday moved to reimpose 10% tariffs on some Canadian aluminum products to protect U.S. industry from a "surge" in imports, angering Ottawa and some U.S. business groups. During a wide-ranging speech at a Whirlpool Corp washing machine factory in Ohio to tout his "America First" trade agenda, Trump said he signed a proclamation reimposing the "Section 232" national security tariffs.

Reuters | Updated: 07-08-2020 05:20 IST | Created: 07-08-2020 05:20 IST
Trump reimposes tariffs on raw Canadian aluminum, says needs to defend U.S. industry

President Donald Trump on Thursday moved to reimpose 10% tariffs on some Canadian aluminum products to protect U.S. industry from a "surge" in imports, angering Ottawa and some U.S. business groups. During a wide-ranging speech at a Whirlpool Corp washing machine factory in Ohio to tout his "America First" trade agenda, Trump said he signed a proclamation reimposing the "Section 232" national security tariffs. The step was "absolutely necessary to defend our aluminum industry," he said.

Ohio is a critical swing state that Trump won in 2016. Polling shows a tight race with Democrat Joe Biden in the state ahead of this year's Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump trails the former vice president in national polls and is competing with him for blue-collar working class voters. The tariff announcement could be aimed at showing those voters he intends to fight for their jobs and upend trade policy further if he remains in office for four more years.

But some prominent business groups criticized the move as counterproductive and unhelpful to U.S. interests. The U.S. Trade Representative's office said the 10% tariffs apply to raw, un-alloyed aluminum produced at smelters. The tariffs do not apply to downstream aluminum products.

"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 our aluminum jobs, which is exactly what they've done," Trump said. "Canadian aluminum producers have broken their commitment." Canada has a natural advantage in primary aluminum production because of its ample supply of cheap hydroelectric power.

A Canadian government source said Canada will respond by slapping retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. Trump peppered his remarks in Ohio with criticism of Biden and predicted "depression time" if the Democrat won, higher taxes and put more regulations.

"To be a strong nation, America must be a manufacturing nation and not be led by a bunch of fools. That means protecting our national industrial base. We have to protect our great companies and our great workers," Trump said. Trump has sparred with close U.S. allies over trade throughout his presidency.

Canada imposed tariffs on U.S. goods ranging from bourbon to ketchup when Trump first imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico in March 2018. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the president's latest move "a step in the wrong direction" that would raise costs on U.S. companies and consumers.

The Aluminum Association, which says it represents companies that produce 70% of the aluminum and aluminum products shipped in North America, said the move undermined the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada that Trump has touted. "The volatility of implementing, removing and then re-imposing trade barriers threatens U.S. growth and investment at a time when domestic demand is already down nearly 25% year-to-date," the group's president, Tom Dobbins, said in a statement.

But Michael Bless, chief executive of Century Aluminum , one of the few remaining U.S. primary aluminum smelting companies and which lobbied for bringing back the tariffs, said the move "helps to secure continued domestic production of this vital strategic material and level the playing field for thousands of American aluminum workers."


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