Bill Morneau acknowledges ‘clouds’ hanging over hopes for free trade deals
MONTREAL—Finance Minister Bill Morneau is acknowledging “clouds” hovering over various trade talks, as Canada struggles to get U.S. tariffs removed and the trade war between the United States and China drags on.
The revised free trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, known as the USMCA, has yet to be ratified, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland warning earlier this week that Canada’s support for the agreement may hinge on the removal of U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
Mexico, also straining under hefty metal duties, has said that unless the tariffs are lifted it will be content with the status quo of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“They are clouds. These are challenges,” Montreal said in Montreal Thursday.
“We see the newspaper reports and it looks messy. I’ve learned that politics can be messy. I have some personal experience with that,” he said. “The sausage is being made, they just don’t have the casing on the sausage yet.”
Morneau said the Trudeau government is pushing weekly for an end to tariffs of 25 per cent on steel imports to the U.S. and 10 per on aluminum imports—first imposed by the Trump administration in June, and met by Ottawa with billions of dollars worth of tariffs on American goods.
Morneau said he is “cautiously optimistic” the updated deal will be ratified in the “not-too-distant future,” and that the China-U.S. trade row will wind down.
He suggested a growing suspicion of globalization around the world has led politicians to wax protectionist, complicating the USMCA and Sino-American negotiations.
Morneau also confirmed he has no plans to review the tax code, pointing in part to the federal election looming a half-year off.