OTTAWA — As the country celebrates Canada Day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on the road highlighting the stand he has taken against the U.S. government’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products.
Speaking in Leamington, Ont., Sunday morning, Trudeau thanked residents and Canadians for always standing up for one another and for Canadian values.
“This is who we are, we’re there for each other in times of difficulty, in times of opportunity. We lean on each other and we stand strong and that’s what we do from coast to coast to coast,” Trudeau said.
The Ontario town is one of three stops the prime minister will make today as he crosses the country, and one of two stops designed to reflect the looming trade war between Canada and the United States.
Trudeau met with workers at a major canning and food processing operation in Leamington where the tomato paste used in French’s ketchup is made and later today will visit a major steel refinery in Regina — two industries at the centre of the trade dispute.
Trudeau’s counter-tariffs take effect today — a month after the Trump administration slapped duties on U.S. steel and aluminum imports from Canada and other allies.
Canada’s response includes imposing $16.6 billion worth of tariffs on a long list of consumer products that come from a wide range of sectors — from beer kegs, to ballpoint pens, to ketchup.
On Friday Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone, reiterating that Canada has had “no choice” but to take countermeasures against the U.S. tariffs.
It appears Trump, too, is not backing down.
In an interview that aired Sunday morning, Trump said he will delay signing a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement until after the U.S. midterms in November in hopes of reaching a better deal.
He said he could quickly sign an agreement with Mexico and Canada, “but I’m not happy with it. I want to make it more fair.”
In the interview on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo,” Trump again threatened to impose tariffs on imported cars, trucks and auto parts, saying, “The cars are the big ones.” The move has been viewed as a possible negotiating ploy to restart NAFTA talks, which could resume following Sunday’s elections in Mexico.
U.S. tariffs on auto imports would be a major blow to Canada’s economy because of the importance of the auto industry plays in the country. The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to hold hearings on auto tariffs in late July and to complete its investigation into auto imports later this summer.
Despite the tense political rhetoric among leaders, Trudeau kept his remarks upbeat and patriotic on Canada Day as he spoke to a crowd in Leamington.
He praising Canadians for their supportive attitudes in the face of a trade dispute with its largest trading partner.
“There is so much to be proud of as a country, but the thing we always have to be most proud of is Canadians ourselves — the way we step, the way we lean on each other, the way we’re creative and optimistic about the future, the way we look at challenges as opportunities, to grow, to build, to be there for each other. That’s what the message we’re celebrating on Canada Day.
Trudeau was speaking on the front steps of Highbury Canco with CEO Sam Diab.
Diab said in an interview that the tomato-processing facility will increase prices of its products as a response to the Canada and U.S. trade dispute.
However, the company does not plan on laying off any workers or shrinking its production, Diab said.
Trudeau got a tour of the facility and the two spoke about the trade environment and how Diab supports Trudeau with the retaliatory tariffs.
“We just need closure so that we can move forward and companies can start investing again,” said Diab, adding that the prime minister’s visit to the company made him feel more “confident” in the market.
“Our company will survive no matter what.”
Revellers on Parliament Hill who braved scorching temperatures to take in the festivities in Ottawa also expressed support for Trudeau’s hard line against Trump on trade.
Angela Egan said she feels Trump is trying to “bully” Canada into submission.
“I’m glad that Justin Trudeau is standing up to him, because I feel like that’s his modus operandi, he just tries to bully to get his way and we need to stand up for ourselves,” she said.
“I think if you stand up to him, he’ll back down.”
Ian Cross of Prince Edward Island says he does not believe Canada-U.S. relations are being damaged too deeply by the current trade spat.
“I think we’ll get through this. Everybody has to go through different arguments and discussions. People do it, families do it, so I don’t think this is a big deal.”