Canada's Justin Trudeau unsure about Washington trip, cites concern over tariffs

Trudeau (above) is expected in Washington to celebrate a new North American trade treaty. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday (July 3) he was still unsure whether he would go to Washington DC next week to celebrate a new North American trade treaty, citing concern about possible US tariffs on aluminium.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is due to meet US President Donald Trump next week, has said he would like Trudeau to attend.

Mexican sources had previously said Lopez Obrador's visit was planned for Wednesday and Thursday, with the possibility of a trilateral meeting on Thursday.

"We're still in discussions with the Americans about whether a trilateral summit next week makes sense," Trudeau said in a news conference.

"We're obviously concerned about the proposed issue of tariffs on aluminium and steel that the Americans have floated recently."

US national security tariffs on imported steel and aluminium - including from Canada and Mexico - were a major irritant during negotiations for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which was reached last year and entered into force on July 1.

But now, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is considering domestic producers' request to restore the 10 per cent duty on Canadian aluminum to combat a "surge" of imports.

Concern about the "health situation and the coronavirus reality that is still hitting all three of our countries" is another factor in his decision on whether to go to Washington, Trudeau said.

Also next week, Trudeau said he would hold a two-day virtual Cabinet retreat - without saying which days - to discuss how to prepare for a potential second wave of Covid-19, among other things.

The spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed steadily in Canada over the past eight weeks, but new cases are spiking in many US states.

As of July 2, Canada had recorded a total of 104,772 coronavirus cases, with 68,345 recovered and 8,642 deaths.

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