Other Opinion: Minnesota stands to lose in any tariffs tussle with Canada


The U.S. and Canada have both long benefitted from unencumbered trade across our northern border. We’re each one another’s No. 1 trading partner.

So we both stood to lose big time from a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum that President Donald Trump announced in August and from dollar-for-dollar counter tariffs Canada had said it would launch this week on U.S. products made from aluminum — things like exercise equipment, prefabricated construction materials, patio furniture, and hockey sticks.

Yes, Minnesotans, hockey sticks. A tariff on hockey sticks. This is that serious.

Canadian officials estimated the hit to Minnesota at $85 million to $90 million, all of which, of course, ends up getting passed down until it burdens us everyday consumers. A tariff tussle also jeopardizes U.S.-Canada trade that included $440 million of goods and services exported from Northeastern Minnesota to Canada in 2014 and accounted for 1,700 jobs in our corner of the state.

Fortunately, U.S. officials Wednesday backed off on the 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum — but they also said the tariffs would be back on if shipments into the U.S. do not fall, as expected with the improving economy.


“Imposing tariffs on one another (is) highly counterproductive,” Ariel Delouya, the consul general of Canada in Minneapolis, said in an exclusive interview conducted virtually this month with the News Tribune Editorial Board. “At a time when our economies are trying to pick up after the devastating impacts of COVID … (and) as we’re trying to launch a new era in trilateral trade, it just beggars understanding as to why this (was) the (Trump administration’s announced move).”

That “new era in trilateral trade” was a reference to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Trump’s tariff announcement came just one month after the USMCA went into effect. That didn’t take long.

The 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum had been an attempt, Trump said, to help struggling American producers. He accused Canada’s aluminum industry of flooding the U.S. market with exports that “kill all our aluminum jobs.” Similar accusations in 2018 helped prompt the USMCA.

Delouya argued that his nation’s aluminum industry didn’t flood the U.S. market; rather, there was a temporary surge from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. He called the U.S. tariff an “overreaction.”

Politics also seems to be in play here with these tariffs and threats of tariffs. Most affected would have been swing states like Minnesota, which would have allowed Trump’s camp, as well as his opponents, to leverage and exploit the situation for votes ahead of the November election.

Clearly, there’s a lot behind, swirling around, and falling out from these dueling U.S. and Canadian tariffs. The bottom line for Minnesotans: the need for Congress, the Trump administration, anti-Trumpers, Canadian officials, and others to put politics and rhetoric aside in the name of benefiting a larger good, namely the preservation and protection of unencumbered and beneficial free trade between our two nations.

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