Trudeau calls Trump 2 days before Canadian tariffs take effect to say Canada 'had no choice' but to act

Two days before Canada's retaliatory tariffs against U.S. steel, aluminum and some consumer goods are set to take effect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump by phone explaining Canada had no choice but to act.

Freeland vows to 'not back down' as Ottawa reveals $2B in aid, new tariff targets

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called U.S. President Donald Trump a day before Canadian tariffs on U.S. imports come into effect to say Canada "had no choice" but to act. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Two days before Canada's retaliatory tariffs against U.S. steel, aluminum and some consumer goods are set to take effect, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump by phone explaining Canada had no choice but to act. 

According to a readout of the call provided by the Prime Minister's Office, Trudeau began the conversation by expressing his condolences for the victims of the mass shooting at an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper before going on to talk about trade. 

"As he has said in past conversations and in public," the readout said. "The Prime Minister conveyed that Canada has had no choice but to announce reciprocal countermeasures to the steel and aluminum tariffs that the United States imposed on June 1, 2018."

Trudeau also spoke by phone with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. Trudeau updated the president on Canada's tariffs on U.S. imports, according to the readout, which also said the two leaders discussed "the North American Free Trade negotiations and agreed to continue working toward a mutually beneficial outcome."

Earlier in the day the federal government unveiled an updated list of U.S. products that are about to be slapped with tariffs while promising to spend up to $2 billion to protect steel, aluminum and manufacturing jobs on this side of the border in the wake of a burgeoning trade war with the U.S.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland revealed the final list of $16.6-billion worth of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, including steel and aluminum during a stop at a Hamilton steel factory Friday.

At the end of May, Freeland and Trudeau announced their intentions to impose dollar-for-dollar tariffs on some U.S. products and sought feedback.

On Friday, the government revealed its edited list.

While much of it stays the same — tariffs on U.S. whisky, lawn mowers, ketchup and maple syrup remain in place —  there have been some tweaks.

International Trade Minister Francoise-Philippe Champagne joins Power & Politics to discuss Canada's retaliatory measures against the U.S. and the government's aid package for the steel and aluminum industries in Canada. 6:28

The government added some items, such as cast-iron grills, refrigerator-freezers and pillows, to the list and removed others: steel and iron beer kegs and prepared mustard.

The tariffs will go into effect Sunday. 

"We will not escalate and we will not back down," Freeland said Friday.

Freeland, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, and Employment and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu also announced that their government will offer compensation to affected businesses and will tweak the employment insurance program to keep workers in Canada.

The measures are in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to impose 25 per cent tariffs on Canadian steel and 10 per cent tariffs on aluminum, citing national security concerns.

Freeland called the reasoning "absurd" and "hurtful."

The government says it will move on a number of steps to help defend the affected industries by:

  • Extending EI work-sharing agreements by 38 more weeks.
  • Offering affected businesses liquidity support.
  • Increasing funding to the provinces and territories for job and training programs
  • Spending up to $250 million to "better integrate the Canadian supply chain of steel and aluminum."
  • Investing $50 million to help companies diversify where their products are exported to.

Of the pledged $2 billion, about $1.7 billion is earmarked to help business manage an uncertain financial future.

Export Development Canada will make $900 million available over the next two years in commercial financing and insurance to companies in the steel and aluminum sectors and related industries.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tells reporters in Hamilton that Canada's reponse to US tariffs is firm and measured 0:41

The Business Development Bank of Canada will make another $800 million in financing available for companies "with viable business strategies navigate through the market turbulence."

"This financing could help companies expand into new markets, increase operational and environmental efficiency, or purchase new technology and equipment," reads a statement from Global Affairs Canada.

According to government figures, the Canadian steel industry employed more than 23,000 Canadians in 2017.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tells reporters in Hamilton that Canada's reponse to US tariffs is firm and measured 1:16