Political News

Canadian foreign minister calls Trump tariffs 'absurd' and 'illegal'

Posted June 13, 2018 4:58 p.m. EDT

— Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the US decision to slap tariffs against Canada on national security grounds was "absurd" and that her country was moving forward "more in sorrow than in anger" with retaliatory tariffs.

Speaking in Washington, Freeland also offered some pointed words when asked about insults that senior White House staffers have hurled at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: "The government of Canada does not believe that ad hominem attacks are the right way to go about foreign policy, to go about foreign relations, particularly when it comes to foreign relations with your close allies and neighbors."

She noted that the Canadian Parliament unanimously backed a resolution condemning the language and observed, "It's very nice to represent a united country."

Freeland was in Washington on a trip planned long before the relations between the two allies veered wildly and unexpectedly off course after President Donald Trump attacked Trudeau last weekend as "very dishonest and weak," and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro declared there was "a special place in hell" for the Canadian leader after he announced Ottawa's decision to apply retaliatory tariffs.

Freeland's visit is part of a broader Canadian effort to underscore the importance of the US-Canada relationship and particularly their trade ties -- an effort that began even before Trump took office.

Wary of Trump's rhetoric about NAFTA, Canadian officials at all levels of government have been reaching out to counterparts in statehouses, governors' offices, business and the tech community, as well as on Capitol Hill, to stress the importance of the trading relationship.

Apart from being close security allies -- sharing the defense of North America through the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the trans-Atlantic through NATO -- the two countries are each other's largest trading partners, exchanging goods and services that support millions of jobs in each country.

The Trump administration's justification for tariffs on national security grounds "is, frankly, absurd," Freeland said, speaking at the US Capitol after a meeting with senators. "The notion that Canadian steel and aluminum could pose a national security threat to the United States -- I think Americans understand it is simply not the case."

Freeland added that the action is illegal under World Trade Organization and NAFTA rules, that Canada has raised cases in both tribunals with the backing of the European Union and Mexico, and that "the United States, in fact, has a surplus of trade in steel with Canada."

"Canada has therefore announced, truly more in sorrow than in anger, announced a perfectly reciprocal, measured, dollar for dollar retaliation response" that will come into effect July 1, Freeland said, before adding that "we really are confident that at the end of the day common sense will prevail."