Canadian Diplomat and SU Prof: Tariffs Will Cause Damage to Consumers, Workers, and Industry

Jun 4, 2018

Rolls of aluminum come off the line at the Novelis plant in Oswego. President Trump says the tariffs on imported aluminum and steel are aimed at preserving or expanding jobs at plants like this.
Credit Novelis, Inc.

A Canadian diplomat based in New York and a Syracuse University professor say the tariffs on steel and aluminum deal a very serious blow to the trading relationship between the U.S. and Canada.  The Trump administration’s move has forced Canada and other nations to issue counter-tariffs.  The matter has already promped rebukes from U.S. Allies at the G-7 meeting.

Consul General of Canada Phyllis Yaffe says the escalating trade dispute will cause damage to industries and consumers on both sides of the border. 

"This is a severe rupture in the trading relationship.  Canada has not issues these kinds of retaliatory measures since the end of World War II."

She says it’s important to realize Canada’s counter-measures are not aimed at American citizens, who are considered close allies and friends.  

"The administration has taken a step that we need to counteract as strongly as possible, and send as strong a message that Canada will protect its own industries as much as any other country in the world."

Yaffe says about 18,000 jobs in the 24th  congressional district alone depend on trade.  The Trump administration's premise for the tariffs is that Canada is a national security threat.  Yaffe says Americans and Canadians find that difficult to understand, and that there could not be two nations who've supported each other more during conflict and peace over the past 150 years.

Consul General of Canada in New York Phyllis Yaffe during a visit Centerstate CEO earlier this year.
Credit WAER File Photo

 "Right now, if you were to travel to Rome, New York,  you would see Canadian service people sitting right beside Americans in their desks at the Eastern Air Defense Command watching the skies to protect both the U.S. and Canada.  So the notion that we would be considered a national security threat, is, as our government has said, is unacceptable."

So what might be the economic impact?   SU Maxwell school history professor Andrew Wender Cohen says Central New York might feel the pinch.   

"It will reduce trade because we are right along the path where that trade runs.  So if there are fewer trucks, fewer trains, fewer boats running through, that is probably bad for our region."

He says the idea behind the tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum are aimed at boosting U.S. steelmakers…even if it doesn’t result in higher production. 

"American manufacturers can raise the price of their steel to match the new price created by the tariff on foreign products.  So it increases their profits, and the hope is that they distribute that to their workers.  At least, that's the logic according to the Trump administration.  Economists tell you that won't necessarily happen."

Professor Cohen worries the administration’s ad-hoc and random trade policy is an invitation to corruption because the tariffs target specific countries and industries that might have ties to the administration.  He’s also concerned the tariffs will weaken ongoing efforts to convince Africa and Asian countries to lower their tariffs.