Warnings from Canada it might ban US thermal coal imports in retaliation over US tariffs slapped on its lumber are “inappropriate,” US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has said.
“Threats of retaliatory action are inappropriate and will not influence any final determinations,” Ross said in a statement yesterday. He was reacting to reports that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “seriously” considering prohibiting US thermal coal imports in response to a surprise US move last month to impose tariffs of up to 24 percent on Canadian softwood lumber.
US President Donald Trump has accused Canada of being “very rough” on the United States for years when it came to trade. Trump, who promotes an “America First” stance, also said his government was looking at tackling Canada over developments he said had hurt US dairy farmers.
The dispute comes against a backdrop of Trump wanting to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) –although the lumber and dairy issues do not fall under its purview. According to the Canadian Press agency, Trudeau was also looking at other retaliatory measures, such as duties on plywood, flooring, wood chips, packaging material and wine from the US state of Oregon.
“We hope we don’t have to act,” it quoted one Canadian government source saying. “We hope this dispute can be resolved.”
Trudeau has called the US tariffs “baseless” and “unfair.” In his statement, Ross argued the US tariffs on lumber was “based on the facts… not political considerations.” He said “we continue to believe that a negotiated settlement is in the best interests of all parties.” Trump has said he had planned late last month to formally give notice to withdraw from NAFTA, but had been persuaded not to by phone calls from Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
However, he told supporters that “if we can’t make a fair deal for our companies and our workers we will terminate NAFTA.”