Chris Lewis, Barry Zekelman and Lisa Raitt gather at Atlas Tube in Harrow on November 14, 2018. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Lisa Raitt pushes for lifting of steel and aluminum tariffs

Conservative MP and Deputy Party Leader Lisa Raitt is calling on the Canadian government to continue negotiations to get steel and aluminum tariffs eliminated from the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.

While visiting Atlas Tube in Harrow on Wednesday, Raitt took aim at what she suggested is the Liberal government’s lack of bargaining when it comes to the USMCA, which is expected to be signed later this month. She said she believes Canada should still be in talks with the U.S. and working to get the tariffs out of the trade agreement before signing it.

“I think they need to do everything they can, including getting in the room now and negotiating to get the tariffs lifted,” said Raitt.

Raitt also took aim at the NDP, which recently called on the Trudeau government to withhold its signature from trade agreement until all tariffs are removed. She said using such an inflexible tactic poses the risk of the U.S. reinstating automotive tariffs.

“Canada has to be willing to bargain,” Raitt said. “If you’re going to take the position that the NDP has taken to not sign it at any costs, that’s not taking in consideration the real damage that could happen if auto tariffs come in. It’s a fine balancing act but what is unacceptable is the government is not talking to the United States at all.”

Tensions were high earlier in the year when President Donald Trump threatened to impose 25 per cent tariffs on the Canadian automotive industry. Part of the USMCA includes a formal guarantee that the Canadian auto industry is protected from any new American tariffs, however, tariffs on steel and aluminum tariffs remain.

Raitt met with local steel businessman Barry Zekelman. Zekelman, who has operations in both Canada and the United States, echoed Raitt’s statements about working with the U.S. and said he believes Canada should instead focus efforts on imported goods coming from countries overseas.

“The problem is the other countries that import steel into Canada,” said Zekelman. “If we just did a deal with the U.S. and imposed quotas on the U.S. shipping into Canada, there would be an equal deal. Then we can look at our back door and close that, The Philippines, Thailand, China, Turkey and the UAE who are all shipping unabated steel here and quoted that, the Canadian steel industry would thrive.”

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also visited the area and said that the bargaining part of the deal is done and considers the tariffs and the trade agreement two separate issues.