Nova Scotia Finance Minister Karen Casey says she supports the position Ottawa has taken on the escalating trade dispute between Canada and the United States.
Speaking with The Chronicle Herald following a biannual gathering of the country’s finance ministers in Ottawa on Tuesday, Casey said there was a general consensus of support for how the feds have responded to the Trump administration’s protectionist policies during what’s become a tense renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“When you’re dealing with the administration and the president, (Canada is not) falling into that kind of rhetoric, but being calm, committed and firm,” Casey said.
“We want any negotiations to be fair to Canadians and there was support around the room for the position that Canada has to take at this point.”
The meetings come just days before Canada is set to impose retaliatory duties on the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum — set to take effect Sunday — as well as dozens of other products from whisky and maple syrup to toilet paper.
There has been concern from the provinces about how the dispute will impact their individual economies, and during Tuesday’s meetings Casey said she reiterated the importance to the Nova Scotian economy of protecting industries like softwood, rubber and paper.
“We depend a lot on exports out of this province and the U.S. is our biggest trading partner. We have to make sure that we know which ones of our products we want to protect and make sure the federal government knows that as well, because they are really negotiating on our behalf,” she said.
“The bottom line from all of these conversations was when you get in a tariff retaliation mode there’s one person that pays and that’s the consumer and that was made very clear. We have to protect the consumer by finding a common ground where there aren’t undue tariffs put on that can hurt us.”
Elsewhere in Ottawa on Tuesday, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade heard several hours of testimony from stakeholders most impacted by tariffs, from large steel producers to small companies and unions.
The emergency meeting was called last week as a way to collect perspectives on how the dispute might impact Canadians, committee chairman and Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking told The Chronicle Herald.
The committee will also be taking written submissions from Canadians until the end of July, which will be compiled in a report and presented to the government.
Eyking said witnesses expressed concern about the uncertainty of the trade relationship with the U.S.
Some even suggested that the U.S. tariffs could push Canada into a recession.
“I think the big one looming is the potential automotive (tariffs). What worries me on that file is what’s going to be next. . . . Anything we sell to (the U.S.) is up for grabs if it gets into an all-out trade war,” Eyking said.
“I think we’re in a very precarious situation with the Americans.”
Eyking said he hopes pressure from Canada via its retaliatory tariffs will make enough of an impact that it will cause concerns for the U.S. administration at the polls during the midterm elections this fall.
“We hope cooler heads will prevail,” Eking said. “We hope they see the repercussions of what’s happening right now.”
Meanwhile, Eyking said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland continues to be the “adult in the room” and is keeping the lines of communication open.
“We’re not leaving the table,” he said.
Back in his own riding, Eyking said, he’s heard worries from constituents about the strain a trade war could put on Canada’s relationship with the U.S.
“When there’s something really serious happening in the world and the Americans want us to step up to the plate with them, if the wounds get so deep, once families start losing their jobs and industries go sideways, these wounds are going to be hard to fix,” Eyking said.