By Lethbridge Herald on July 3, 2018.
There’s nothing like a mountain of adversity to get people pulling together.
That’s a key learning we should take from last week’s meetings between federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his provincial counterparts and from hearings held by the special House of Commons committee on international trade.
At the hearings, a parade of expert witnesses from across the spectrum spoke to express solidarity with the government’s strategy on dealing with Donald Trump’s trade tantrums. They made for some strange bedfellows. Ken Neumann, Canadian director of the United Steelworkers Union said: “We support the countermeasures announced by the federal government and believe they must be comprehensive and immediate.”
Jerry Dias, president of the country’s largest private-sector union, Unifor, agreed, saying: “U.S. trade attacks on Canada are a clear and present threat to our national economy, period.”
Joseph Galimberti of the Canadian Steel Producers Association said: “Our member companies strongly support the government of Canada’s announced intention to impose tariffs on imports of steel, aluminum and other products.”
At the finance minister’s meeting there was consensus on the federal trade strategy and constructive exchanges on the best way to mitigate the harm caused.
It’s rare, and gratifying, to see this kind of unanimity. It needs to last when the waters get even rougher, which Trump promises they will.
In his latest slam against Canada’s supply management system, Trump threatened: “If you want to do that, we’re going to put a little tariff on your cars.” If he makes good on that threat, and there’s no reason to think he won’t, we haven’t begun to see the harm caused by America’s militant protectionism.
Flavio Volpe, of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, put it this way: “A 25 per cent tariff on cars and parts would cause what we like to call ‘Carmageddon.’ The industry operates on single-digit margins and it would grind to an immediate halt with a 25 per cent increase in price. A $32,000 car — that’s an average price here — would immediately be unsaleable at $40,000.”
It’s not just Canada that would be hurt. Industry experts predict that Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Alabama and New York will quickly be pushed into recession if Trump makes good on his tariff threat.
Which leads any reasonable person to ask: Why would a president inflict such economic harm on his own citizens, business and industry?
The federal and provincial governments need to act quickly now to announce specific measures to backstop sectors that are or will be hurt by the trade war. The feds need to take a lead role in getting provinces to the table to reduce interprovincial trade barriers, which could mitigate the harm to a point. There must be a renewed effort to update NAFTA.
Canadians and their governments at all levels need to continue to stand together. We didn’t start this trade war. But Trump has left us no choice but to fight it, and the best way to do that is together.
An editorial from the Hamilton Spectator (distributed by The Canadian Press)