Nobody wants a trade war with its biggest trading partner — least of all, a province whose entire economy is reliant on exporting commodities.
But this trade war may be a good opportunity for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. He could not only change the channel from a rough end of the session, but provide a meaningful contribution to what is suddenly a potential trade crisis facing this province and the entire nation.
Moe is traveling to Washington in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump extending tariffs to Canadian aluminum and steel that will hammer Evraz Regina
The Saskatchewan premier’s meeting schedule is an extensive and heady one, topped by an audience with Trump’s secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross.
Exactly what a premier from a small Canadian province of a million people can accomplish in Washington is likely a puzzlement to some. But when elected to lead, you do whatever you can to address the most important issues.
In an interview Friday, Moe seemed to recognize the dire consequences of the trade actions when tariffs hit an industry as integrated as North American steel.
“I will be putting forward that that can be a win-win and doesn’t have to be a lose-lose,” Moe said, adding that he hopes the logic in his conversations with Ross and others prevails.
Whether such a notion could be accepted by Trump — whose view of a “win” requires someone else losing — remains to be seen.
What does seem evident, so far, is Trump is not really winning.
For example, the U.S. sanctions now extended to Canadian aluminum (a 10-per-cent tariff compared with 25 per cent on steel) are being imposed on an already disadvantaged American industry that pays much more for electricity than Quebec aluminum producers. Moreover, a top aluminum industry consultant told the CBC that Canadian aluminum producers have been factoring the 10-per-cent surcharge into its prices since Trump first imposed it on on other aluminum-producing countries in March. Essentially, Canada’s already larger, more efficient aluminum plants have allowed the industry to collect an extra 0 million from American consumers.
Now, Trump’s American voters are facing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s list of retaliatory measures on U.S. imports — a seemingly incoherent list that includes sleeping bags, maple syrup, yogurt, tissues, napkins, toilet paper, pens, felt-tip markers, chocolate, beer kegs, bourbon and orange juice.
But upon closer examination, Trudeau’s choices indicate his bipartisan advisers have done their homework … and fully recognized that all politics is local.
Sleeping bags are produced in California where Democrats are targeting eight congressional districts. Most American maple syrup coming into Canada is from Maine, which Democrats want to win back. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin hometown is famous for Parker Brother pens, dairy products like yogurt, tissues, napkins and toilet paper. Pennsylvania, another battleground for U.S. mid-term elections, produces a lot of chocolate and felt-tip pens. U.S. House Speaker Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is famous for bourbon. Florida, a key swing state, famously provides Canada with its orange juice.
The all-politics-is-local argument is also where Moe can provide his own meaningful contribution during his Washington trip.
Besides Ross, Moe is scheduled to meet with several members of congress, Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines and Democrat Senator Jon Tester, Democrat North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts (who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee) and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
The Saskatchewan premier said he will tell them all the same consistent story. Recycled cars from the States are shipped to Evraz in Regina. The steel is shipped to Portland, Oregon where it’s made into plates. Those steel plates are shipped back to Canada where they are rolled into pipe for Texas oil fields.
It demonstrates how integrated the U.S.-Canadian economies are, Moe said.
And it may be an argument tough even for Trump to ignore.
Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post.