President Donald Trump on Friday announced a deal to lift US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico that had created friction between the neighbors and blocked a new North American free trade agreement.
“I’m pleased to announce that we’ve just reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico and will be selling our product into those countries, without the imposition of tariffs,” Trump said at an event in the US capital.
His statement came moments after Canada released the text of the agreement between Ottawa and Washington in which they agreed to eliminate US tariffs on steel and aluminum, and Canada’s retaliatory measures, within no more than two days.
Mexico confirmed it had reached a similar agreement with the United States.
“Trump’s strategy has worked,” US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement, crediting the tariffs with reviving US steel and aluminum manufacturers.
The steep US tariffs imposed last year — 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum — became a major stumbling block to ratifying a new North American trade pact negotiated last year by the three countries.
Canada and Mexico initially were exempted from the tariffs Trump enforced using a national security argument, as part of his hardline trade tactics.
Once America’s neighbors were included, the levies drew retaliation with tariffs on a host of US products.
Even after the governments agreed to a revised free trade deal — the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA — the tariffs remained in place, but officials in Ottawa and Mexico City said they would not sign unless Washington removed the metals duties.
– Not making sense –
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was a shared recognition that “these tariffs were harming workers and consumers on both sides of the border” and “didn’t make a lot of sense” in the context of a new free trade deal.
“Obviously these continued tariffs on steel and aluminum and our countermeasures represented significant barriers to moving forward with the new NAFTA agreement,” he said, referring to the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Now that we’ve had a full lift on these tariffs we are going to work with the United States on timing for ratification but we’re very optimistic we are going to be able to move forward well in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said.