Canada’s Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton attends a business luncheon in Montreal, Wednesday, November 16, 2016. MacNaughton says he believes NAFTA negotiators can reach an agreement in principle by the end of March. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum could be gone in weeks, ambassador says

Canada’s ambassador to the United States showing certainty in the tariff issue

Canada’s ambassador to the United States says he believes punishing American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum could be gone in a matter of weeks.

David MacNaughton is saying little else about the source of his optimism beyond what he considers to be a growing understanding south of the border that the tariffs, imposed last summer and still in place despite a new North American trade deal, are doing more harm than good.

MacNaughton made the comments in Washington during a day-long free-trade forum hosted by the Canadian American Business Council.

He was coy about what may have changed, although there have been some significant developments on the U.S. political front, including President Donald Trump’s decision last week to declare a national emergency at the Mexico-U.S. border.

That move, designed to circumvent Congress in the president’s efforts to secure billions in funding for his border wall, effectively ended an ongoing standoff between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill that had been consuming a lot of oxygen in Washington.

MacNaughton also put to rest another persistent question in Ottawa, describing as “fake news” the speculation that he might be poised to replace Gerald Butts as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary.

He’s also confident that U.S. lawmakers will eventually ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, although when remains an open question.

On the issue of tariffs, however MacNaughton is sounding more bullish than he has in a while.

“I think that we’ll get there in the next few weeks,” he said.

READ MORE: 5 of the weirdest items affected by the Canada-U.S. trade war

READ MORE: U.S. to slap steel and aluminium tariffs on Canada, Mexico

“It is obviously difficult to predict accurately exactly what is going to happen here — there are many moving parts, there are other distractions — but I’m confident that we’re going to get there in the next few weeks.”

MacNaughton has been predicting a quick resolution to the tariff issue for a while. But there was a certainty in his comments Thursday that hasn’t been there much of late, especially when the topic came up during a panel discussion alongside Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

“I think we’re going to resolve it in a positive way in the next short while,” he said. “I don’t want to go into great detail, but I think we’re going to resolve this matter soon … even governments end up doing the right thing eventually.”

MacNaughton and Garneau were just two of the past and present lawmakers, diplomats and business leaders from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico gathered in Washington to explore when Congress might get around to debating the merits of the USMCA.

WATCH: Americans #ThankCanada as tariff spat continues

Trump was, of course, top of mind for many. Former New York congressman Joe Crowley, who lost his nomination last year to rising Democrat star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, blamed the president for having ”weaponized” the issue of trade, a tactic that has alienated two of America’s most important allies.

Gordon Giffin and Jim Blanchard, two former U.S. ambassadors to Canada, shared a panel with former Canadian envoy Gary Doer, all three of whom called on the White House to lift its tariffs on steel and aluminum. They also agreed the new trade deal can’t be passed until those tariffs are lifted.

Tariffs aside, a number of Democrats and Republicans say they won’t vote for NAFTA 2.0 in its current form.

Democrats say the agreement lacks labour and environmental enforcement, and some don’t like its extended drug patent protections. U.S. officials say those concerns will have to be dealt with in so-called side letters or the bill Congress votes on to enact the deal.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kitamaat women complete the three-peat at All Native

Haisla team unstoppable in final as they rout Hazelton; Adelia Paul back to back MVP

No injuries reported following Kitimat Scotiabank robbery

RCMP release image of man wanted in connection with robbery

Northern Health recommends self-quarantine for people returning from Hubei

The healthcare provider said it isn’t neccessary for healthy children to wear face masks

Wet’suwet’en return to camps near Houston, Coastal GasLink workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Municipal water passes lead tests with flying colours

You may, however, want to test your water at home

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

B.C. man released from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Because Spencer Fehrenbacher has American citizenship, he was evacuated by the U.S.

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Most Read