Tariff offensive: Embassy is drafting a list of American officials for Trudeau

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Tariff offensive: Embassy is drafting a list of American officials for Trudeau
Tariff offensive: Embassy is drafting a list of American officials for Trudeau

The prime minister’s inner circle is ramping up another lobbying push in Washington to terminate American tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Two senior government sources say that ministers with connections to American national security portfolios will be tasked with reaching out to specific U.S. officials to push Canada’s anti-tariff message.

The campaign is based on Canada’s long-standing position that the tariffs are both illegal and absurd.

Last June, the Trump administration invoked a rarely used national security provision — Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 — to impose 25 per cent tariffs on imported steel and 10 per cent tariffs on imported aluminum.

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The tariffs are based on the argument that, in the event of a national emergency, the U.S. needs robust domestic steel and aluminum industries. Canada has openly attacked the tariffs, pointing out that Canada is not a threat to U.S. national security.

One source said the new lobbying campaign actually began when Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to Washington in December.

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Early in the new year, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan delivered a similar anti-tariff message over the phone to the new U.S. acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan​.

And Finance Minister Bill Morneau also made Canada’s case during a face-to-face meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in Washington yesterday.

Now, the lobbying push is seeking new targets. Officials at the Canadian embassy in Washington are drafting a list of influential Americans who may be open to Canada’s message.

Once that list is complete, individual ministers will be tasked with reaching out to those officials, by phone or in person, to press Canada’s case.

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Both Freeland and Morneau will use the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland as a forum to meet with their American counterparts and push them to nix the tariffs.

They won’t see U.S. President Donald Trump there. Trump announced on Twitter today that he would be skipping the forum to focus on the current federal government shutdown and a swelling dispute with House Democrats over his demand for a border wall.

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