Trump reimposes US tariffs on raw Canadian aluminium

United States President Donald Trump moved to reimpose 10% tariffs on some Canadian aluminium products to protect US industry from a "surge" in imports, angering Ottawa and some US business groups. In response, Canada pledged retaliation.

During a 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 aluminium industry", he said.

Ohio is a critical swing state that Trump won in 2016. But polling shows now a tight race with Democrat Joe Biden in the state ahead of this year's 3 November presidential election. 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.

But some prominent business groups criticised the move as counterproductive and unhelpful to US interests.

The US Chamber of Commerce called the move "a step in the wrong direction" that would raise costs on companies and consumers. The Aluminum Association, which says it represents companies that produce 70% of the aluminium and aluminium products shipped in North America, said the move undermined the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement at a time when year-to-date domestic demand was already down nearly 25%.

The US Trade Representative's office, however, argued the 10% tariffs apply to raw, unalloyed aluminium produced at smelters. The tariffs do not apply to downstream aluminium products.

"Several months ago, my administration agreed to lift those tariffs in return for a promise from the Canadian government that its aluminium industry would not flood our country with exports and kill all our aluminium jobs, which is exactly what they've done," Trump said. "Canadian aluminium producers have broken their commitment."

Canada has a natural advantage in primary aluminium production because of its ample supply of hydroelectric power.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the tariffs would hurt workers and regional economies already hit by the coronavirus pandemic and pledged Ottawa would retaliate as it had done in 2018, when Trump first imposed punitive measures on Canadian steel and aluminium.

"In response to the American tariffs, Canada intends to swiftly impose dollar-for-dollar countermeasures," Freeland said in a statement.

Freeland - in overall charge of relations with the United States - will formally respond to the tariffs at 11am (15:00 GMT) on Friday, her office said in a statement.

In 2018, Canada slapped tariffs on 16.6bn Canadian dollars ($12.4bn) worth of US goods ranging from bourbon to ketchup. Trump lifted the sanctions in 2019.

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