Politics

Morneau says Canada's finance ministers will stand together in the face of U.S. tariff threat

Finance Minister Bill Morneau emerged from a meeting with his provincial counterparts insisting the federal government and the provinces are fully united in the face of American threats to global trade.

'Faced with challenges in our trading environment, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder'

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said his provincial and territorial counterparts will stand shoulder to shoulder as they continue to face American threats to the global trading system. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau emerged today from a meeting with his provincial counterparts insisting the federal government and the provinces are fully united in the face of American threats to global trade.

"We recognize that faced with challenges in our trading environment, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder. We need to recognize that our opportunities together are much greater than when we're apart and that was certainly a part of our discussion today," Morneau told reporters in Ottawa.

Morneau's bi-annual meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts took place days before Canada's retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. imports come into effect on July 1.

That action is part of Canada's response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products. The penalties— combined with tariffs Trump has imposed on steel and aluminum from the European Union, Mexico, China and others — have many observers alarmed about the impact of the U.S. president's protectionist agenda on the global economy.

That impact could be quite significant if Trump follows through on his threat to impose tariffs on Canada's auto industry as he did with steel and aluminum.

Morneau said taking that route would not only lead to harm for the Canadian economy but for the U.S. economy as well. 

Morneau promised that the federal government would "in the coming days" announce what it will do to offer financial assistance to Canadian businesses hurt by American and Canadian tariffs.

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao joins Power & Politics to discuss the finance ministers' meeting in Ottawa and U.S. metal tariffs. 7:11

"We absolutely are going to stand behind Canadian businesses who are challenged by these tariffs," he said. "We are going to stand behind Canadians, Canadians who are employed in the steel industry, Canadians who are impacted by these tariffs."

Morneau said he would provide details of that assistance in the coming days but declined to outline his plans today.

"We had an important day where we talked about, frankly, how well the Canadian economy is doing, but we did also talk about the risks to the economy based on the U.S. trade actions," Morneau said.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday 1:18

The federal finance minister also revealed that he discussed how to accelerate negotiations to improve free trade within Canada. Morneau said he will push the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"One of the things that we will say to the premiers as we go back, and I will certainly be saying to the prime minister, is there's no better time for us to think about how we can work together more constructively than [when] we are faced with an external challenge."

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz also attended the meetings to provide his analysis of the current state of the global economy and Canada's monetary policy. Business leaders also were invited to provide their thoughts on what the government can do to improve competitiveness.

A statement released after the meetings said the premiers also agreed to work together to crack down on tax avoidance by improving information on who owns which corporations in Canada. The premiers also agreed to cooperate to ensure the housing market remains strong.

Morneau, left, and Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz speak with provincial and territorial finance ministers Tuesday. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

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