Trudeau, Trump talk tariffs
From an aluminium smelter, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called US President Donald Trump on Monday to press for a permanent exclusion from US tariffs on aluminium and steel.
It was their first conversation since Trump last week imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, raising trade tensions.
Trudeau "emphasised 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 aluminium 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 aluminium to the US market, has been temporarily exempted from the tariffs, along with Mexico.
When Trump announced the 10 per cent tariffs on aluminium and 25 per cent 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 "emphasised 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.
Canada accuses China
Trudeau accused China of flooding global markets with cheap steel on Monday, saying Canada has already taken steps to prevent "dumping."
"We are very concerned about the actions taken by China and the dumping of steel and aluminium on the global market," Trudeau said.
His comments came amid rising global trade tensions in the wake of a US decision to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.
Canada, the top supplier of steel and aluminum to the US market, and Mexico have been temporarily exempted from the tariffs until trilateral continental trade talks conclude.
Trudeau said Canada already has "significant barriers" in place to prevent low-cost steel and aluminum from being dumped there, and is prepared to work with Washington to "do even more."
"There is a global overcapacity issue and we are very pleased to work with our allies and friends to continue to counter that problem," he said.
WTO head warns of risk
Trump's decision to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum could spark retaliation from other countries and lead to unforeseen consequences, the head of the World Trade Organisation said.
"You know when it starts but not how it will turn out" when countries engage in mutual retaliation, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in remarks to reporters after a meeting with Brazilian President Michel Temer.
Brazil has said it will seek exemption from the newly imposed tariffs. "This process of tit-for-tat can induce at times trade wars that are in no one's interests," Azevedo said. He called for a multilateral approach rather than multiple bilateral actions.
Azevedo said Brazil was "exploring alternatives" for responding to the tariffs. Brazil, which is the second biggest supplier of steel to the United States after Canada, remains open for a dialogue to reach an understanding with the United States and is talking to other countries to learn about measures they are considering, he said.
Azevedo said he did not know if Brazil would resort to the WTO's dispute resolution mechanism but said Brazil was not ruling it out.
Earlier on Monday, Finance Minister Henrique Mereilles said Brazil's government had not made a decision yet on how to respond to the tariffs and needed to see what exactly the United States wanted in negotiations. - AFP, Reuters