Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross admitted Wednesday that Canada is not a national security threat and doesn’t have a trade surplus on steel with the U.S.
As the Canadian Press reports, Ross made the observations before the Senate Finance Committee that is examining President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs. He suggested that the tariffs on steel and aluminum that have angered Canadians of all political stripes would evaporate if the ongoing NAFTA talks are successful. (RELATED: Trump Says Tariffs Are Turning Canadians Into Shoe Smugglers)
Ross’s admission prompted a comment from Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who said, “I wish we would stop invoking national security because that’s not what this is about. This is about economic nationalism and an economic policy of managing trade.”
Ross was repeatedly asked about why the Trump administration was calling Canada a national security threat when the two nations are closely bound by a formal military alliance and numerous forms of military cooperation.
The secretary responded, “The Canadian steel industry is not being accused of directly and individually being a security threat. The national security implication is in the aggregate, all of the steel.”
Ross noted that both Canada and Mexico had already been cleared of aluminum and steel tariffs when Trump first proposed the idea and probably would be again if NAFTA negotiations come to a satisfactory conclusion.
One of Ross’s toughest critics was Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah who said, “Know that you are taxing American families, you are putting American jobs at risk, and you are destroying markets — both foreign and domestic — for American businesses of all types, sorts and sizes.”
Speaking to reporters in Washington later, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declared victory in the war of words with Washington over Canada’s alleged status as a national security threat.
“We think that is self-evident, and that is what we have been saying from the beginning,” said Freeland. “[It was] good to hear all of those comments from him.”